On Wednesday January 11th, the Senate Select Committee hearings investigating the multitude of irregularities at the Visa, Passport and Nationality sections of the Ministry of Immigration which were cited in the Auditor General’s special audit report will resume in Belmopan.


Former Director Maria Marin, who served in various senior positions between 2009 and 2016, will continue to testify and provide answers to the questions put forward by the Committee. Last week Marin took the witness chair for the first time and admitted that a number of things were not going right at the Ministry.


When Marin takes the seat once more in two days, she is expected to provide details on a list of Ministers who were constantly intervening in various immigration processes. Marin explained at the last hearing that the list was compiled simply for information purposes but Committee Member Senator Eamon Courtenay did not buy that rationale.

Another list spoken of during the interrogation consisted of the names of persons who were seen making multiple requests for visas as sponsors. According to Marin, while the cases raised eyebrows they were not able to investigate.

 

Screen_Shot_2017-01-09_at_6.12.51_PMEamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee member


“Is it a red flag when the same person seems to have a lot of friends who he wants VISAS for?”


Maria Marin – Former Director of Immigration


“During my tenure as the acting Director that did come up as a red flag and that is one of the reasons why I had the vetting officers create excel sheets indicating the name of the applicant, the name of the sponsor and all the particulars so that we could keep track of how many applications that one single individual was sponsoring.”


Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee member


“What did you do with that information?”


Maria Marin – Former Director of Immigration


“We would bring it up for discussion at the ministry level.”


Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee member


“What does that mean?”


Maria Marin – Former Director of Immigration


“We would inform the ministry that we are getting a lot of application from this one person.”


Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee member


“What happen?”


Screen_Shot_2017-01-09_at_6.11.31_PMMaria Marin – Former Director of Immigration


“We didn’t have any enforcement to be able to say that these persons went back there were also human resource limitations.”


The special audit report is replete with allegations of irregularities regarding applications by the sponsors for visas.

The Auditor General’s probe found that there were sponsors who did not submit proof of their funds such as Bank Statements or Job Letters, that there were sponsors who used bogus businesses to sponsor applicants, that individuals with Permanent Residence sponsored applicants to visit Belize; some which were accompanied by special request notes by Ministers, and that various sponsors had no relationship to applicants for visas. Despite these red flags, the visas were approved and processed.

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