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Anti-bail measure for contrabandistas/border jumpers is “bandaid” on wider problem, says Business Senator

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Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020. 11:37 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: There was no objection to extending the current public state of emergency, especially considering that as pointed out by Senator for non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) Osmany Salas, Belize’s number of cases jumped from 48 to more than 500 and counting as of today.

Salas revealed that a couple of his employees tested positive, bringing the issue home.

And he pointed out that in this election year, it is necessary that we face the problem together – which drew a response from Attorney General and Minister of National Security Michael Peyrefitte, who pointed out that the social partners failed to condemn Leader of the Opposition John Briceño for abandoning the National COVID-19 Oversight Committee to focus on politics.

But later during the debate on the Crime Control and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2020, there was debate over whether as expressed by Senator for the Business Community Mark Lizarraga, denying bail in the first instance to those accused of contraband, buying contraband, and jumping the closed borders is “a bandaid on the wider problem.” He did agree that it had taken too long for governments to address the issue.

Senator Lizarraga pointed out that many of the border jumpers and contrabandists are poor people who have made a living this way and asked what could be done for them.

Opposition Senator Michel Chebat asked for clarification on the process of handling these persons and it was outlined by Peyrefitte.

According to Peyrefitte, the main facility to be built in the Baldy Beacon area of the Mountain Pine Ridge will house up to 100 such persons and testing will be done by the Ministry of Health in the area. When the person is tested COVID-19 negative, only then will they be taken to court and go through the bail process at the Supreme Court. Under no circumstances, Peyrefitte said, would a COVID-19 positive patient be sent to Central Prison in Hattieville and risk community spread. The Government is fortifying other installations in the area.

Senator Isabel Bennett raised the issue of who will protect the children abandoned by desperate parents who turn to contraband and border jumping; alleviate food shortages in each village and have volunteers countrywide to assist the Government with responding to individual concerns.

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