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|San Pedro Daily||Monday,
January 30, 2012
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1,098 got citizenship in January
Adele O. Trapp
Immigration Director Ruth Meighan announced today on The Adele Trapp Show that an in-house tally for January 2012 indicates that 1,098 new citizenships have been granted in January 2012, in the course of four swearing-in sessions.
This contrasts sharply with the usual average of 1,300-1,500 per year during the five years preceding the 2008 change in administration.
Meighan told us that she could not give us the exact breakdown by nationality for those recently sworn in, but that the new citizens included Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Chinese and US nationals.
Meighan said that a lot of people came to check on their old applications, and some had applications dating as far back as 1995—17 years ago.
“People came in and were requesting that we now process their applications,” she said, adding that they brought in Immigration staff from the district offices to help, since the minister, she said, decided to do the swearing-in, one after the next.
“When it comes close to the elections, all the political parties get involved,” said Immigration Minister Carlos Perdomo, adding that perhaps the ruling United Democratic Party may have been doing it more because they are in power.
“Those thousand [plus], you cannot guarantee that they are all UDP; a lot of them are PUP,” said Perdomo. “The reality is there is always a [nationalization] wave at election time.”
Asked how many of those persons came here legally or illegally, the Immigration Director said she could not give us specific numbers, although the majority were legal, including some granted amnesty in 1995.
She added that under law, illegal immigrants are not barred from seeking nationality. She referred to a clause in the Nationality Act (Chapter 169 of the Laws of Belize) which indicates that a person must be “ordinarily resident” in Belize for five years, or one year if married to a Belizean, before seeking citizenship. “Ordinarily resident,” she said, doesn’t necessarily mean legal, but persons living undisturbed and going about their normal business also fall within this category. She said that she had asked a lawyer to interpret the law for her and the advice was that the person requesting nationality has to show proof that they have been living in Belize in a normal, day-to-day manner, like a born Belizean.
Minister of Immigration Carlos Perdomo said that the bulk of them continue to be from neighboring Central American countries and particularly Guatemala—as has consistently been the trend across political administrations. He said that there were many more who had applied for citizenship, but they tried to ensure that they stay within the law.
Perdomo said that there are routine swearing-in ceremonies about every 4 to 6 weeks, and 175-250 people may be sworn in per session.
The recent wave of nationalizations precedes the March 7, 2012, municipal elections, and early general elections programmed also for 2012.
In January 2008, when the Opposition People’s United Party was in office, 708 new Belizeans were sworn in.
In the process of the discussion of a proposed amnesty program for up to 20,000 migrants said to be living illegally in Belize, it was revealed that the average rate of nationalization had been only about 1,300 annually.
In an article titled, “Belize Introduces Immigration Amnesty”, dated September 20, 2009, and written by former Belize Solicitor General, Oscar Ramjeet, on the occasion of the swearing-in of 35 new Belizeans, Ramjeet said, “During the past five years, more than 6,300 persons were sworn in as Belizean citizens. Last year , there were 1,549 new citizens, while in 2007 there were 1,614.”
In June 2008, there were 179 new Belizeans sworn in and 36% of them were Guatemalans.
Senator Godwin Hulse pointed out publicly in April 2008 that according to Immigration statistics, 550 people got Belizean citizenship between April 2006 and March 2007, and 40.9% of them were Guatemalans.
Minister Perdomo said Tuesday that there is provision in the law for Guatemalans to be accepted once they renounce their Guatemalan nationality.
Meighan added that Indians are also required to renounce their original nationality before they become Belizeans.
In renouncing, she said, Guatemalans are given a form to sign saying they renounce their former citizenship, and it has to be signed by a Justice of the Peace. That form stays on the file.
We asked the Minister for the specific provision in law that refers to the requirement for renouncing citizenship, but at the time of this writing, we had not yet received the specific reference. If we do before this edition of the newspaper goes to press, we will let you know the specifics.
Section 29(3) of the Belize Constitution says: “(3) No person shall be entitled under the provisions of this Part to be a citizen of Belize or be granted citizenship of Belize if such person shows any allegiance to or is a citizen of a country which does not recognise the independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Belize: Provided that the Minister may in his discretion grant Belizean citizenship to persons falling under this subsection who would otherwise be entitled to such citizenship under the provisions of sections 23 and 25 of this Constitution.” Section 23 makes provisions for citizenship transitions at or around the time of Independence; and Section 25 refers to those of Belizean parentage.
Strategic Defence and Security Review planned for Belize
Adele O. Trapp
In speaking of an ongoing process to conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review for Belize, Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commander of the Belize Defence Force (BDF), cautioned that if the nation is not prepared to deal with existing threats, which are bound to expand in the area of narcotics, it could very well lose the battle.
“The dynamics have changed for the country; the threat is constantly evolving,” said Tapia. “When you prepare for one threat, you find out that it has evolved; it has changed.
“Currently, we are keeping in mind the cartels operating in [neighboring countries], and who knows? In the very near future we might be dealing with that in Belize, and if we are not prepared to deal with that threat, we certainly we will be fighting a...losing battle.”
The Belize Defence Force is getting help from Canada and the British High Commissioner in putting together its Strategic Defence and Security Review. Tapia said that the intent is to have international partners assist the BDF.
With the planning exercise for the 2012-2013 national budget in process, Defence Minister Carlos Perdomo said that increasing manpower in the BDF is something that will be factored into the numbers. Usually, about 40 to 50 new soldiers are recruited yearly, said Tapia, but the budget will allow for 30 more to be added annually, with the aim of forming a new BDF company after about three years.
Minister Perdomo said that there have been discussions at the National Security Council level to boost the number of soldiers. The size of the Belize Coast Guard will also be increased.
In August 2011, Brigadier General Tapia had said that at the prior meeting of Belize’s National Security Council, the decision was taken to undertake a Strategic Defence and Security Review, to set out the long-term needs of Belize.
Belize’s last strategic review was done in 2000—12 years ago. The review is expected to conclude later this year.
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