Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2023. 11:07 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Former Minister of State for Immigration, Ramon Cervantes Jr, has been targeted by the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), which wants to know “the real reason” he was shuffled to a different Ministry in January, and whether it has to do with mass smuggling of Haitians into and through Belize.
In a statement, the UDP called for a Commission of Inquiry into the issue that would answer the following questions: “What influenced this administration’s initial travel policy towards Haitian nationals? How did that policy facilitate the mass smuggling of Haitians through Belize? How did so many make it through Belize without raising alarm? Were immigration officials complicit in the smuggling? Were Ministers of Immigration, Eamon Courtenay and Ramon Cervantes, aware of the crisis? What system can be implemented to prevent such mass smuggling without introducing discriminatory immigration policies on our CARICOM brothers and sisters?”
The UDP continues that the reason given by the Prime Minister at the time – that he wanted and expected “renewed focus on [critical areas]” in the new portfolio, “made no sense” to them and that someone should be held accountable in light of this burgeoning Immigration crisis.
Courtenay responded today that “I don’t think that a Commission of Inquiry is needed. We have evidence as to what happened and we are addressing it.”
As to Cervantes, Courtenay maintained that “There is absolutely no evidence in my possession or that I’m aware of that Minister Cervantes was involved in any smuggling…I am absolutely not aware of any evidence of any smuggling that he may have been involved in.”
The UDP concluded, “The solution to human smuggling is not violating the principles of CARICOM’s Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The solution to stopping human smuggling in Belize is to arrest and charge the Immigration Minister and officials facilitating this corruption.”
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