Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2022. 10:16 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Government has laid the legal groundwork for the implementation of the amnesty program to begin on August 1 with an amendment to the Belizean Nationality Act, Chapter 161 of the Laws of Belize.
As of July 1, some 4,752 persons have made appointments to participate in the program, of which 1,586 come from the Cayo District; 635 from the Belize District; 612 from Toledo; 309 from Stann Creek District; 182 from Orange Walk District, and 44 from Corozal, plus 1,626 minors.
Minister of Immigration and Leader of Government Business Senator Eamon Courtenay in opening the debate stated that these persons – and the thousands more expected to apply – share the same concern: “These persons are in Belize and for all intents and purposes have made Belize their home. However, they remain irregular. Like in any country, they are fearful of coming to Immigration to regularize their status. They are fearful that if they do so they will be arrested, deported, arrested and charged, suffer some consequence, or [be] fined perhaps.”
He added that many of these persons lost jobs and were not able to maintain their status due to COVID-related economic issues. Once they have satisfied one of eight criteria, they would be considered for permanent residence. Courtenay reminded that any person of irregular status – not just those of Central America – can apply, and that a very rigorous security check will be applied which will weed out “undesirables” such as gang members and those with criminal backgrounds, as the regular process has already done. This includes physical checking at work and home premises by the Police Department; checks with Interpol and with an agency based in El Salvador are also available.
While revenue collection is not a target of the Government for the exercise, Courtenay estimates that from those who have already applied alone, the Government will realize close to $2 million in revenue.
In response to concerns raised about the availability of applications and offices and the security of the process by social partner Senators Janelle Chanona and Kevin Herrera, Courtenay allowed that applications may be taken on the weekends depending on the flow of participants. Regulations governing the amnesty will be created.
The application period begins on August 2, 2022, and ends on November 30, 2022. The processing period runs from December 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023. Three Amnesty 2022 Registration Centres will be available in every district. The Information Centre opens on July 11, 2022 (Telephone – 822-4913, 822-4914, 8224915; WhatsApp – 610-3674; Email – [email protected]; Live online chat on website). More information can be found on the ministry’s website at www.immigration.gov.bz.
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