On Wednesday night, we took a closer look at two of the three amendment bills intended to tighten-up regulations at the Ministry of Immigration and Nationality. Those bills were tabled at the last sitting of the House of Representatives and are now being reviewed by the National Security and Immigration Committee. The proposals are still in the introductory phase and so are subject to further changes. In the intervening time, let us review the manuscripts that were tabled in the House. We’ll begin with the Passport Amendment Act, 2013, aimed at strengthening the penalty chapter of that act. Division 2 of the amendment redefines the offence, noting that a person who issues or takes any action to facilitate the issue of a passport – without lawful authority or knowing that the issue of the passport is contrary to the provisions of this Act; or engages in conduct, in the exercise of a duty or authority under this Act, for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another person. As proposed in the bill, violation of this Act may carry a sentence of 5-15 years in prison and a fine not exceeding BZE$50,000.
Such bill which contains the most provisions is the Belizean Nationality Amendment Act, 2013; this statue pertains to matters of citizenship and permanent residency. It’s a lengthy list of amendments, so we’ll highlight the most central changes. A number of the amendments seek to clearly spell out what was initially perhaps not so clearly defined; for instance in the Citizenship by Registration division of the Act, one amendment describes the of full age requirement at eighteen years or older. The amendment also speaks to the newly proposed Nationality Scrutinizing Committee, laying out unambiguously that “the Minister shall not consider an application for registration as a citizen of Belize unless that person has been reviewed by the Nationality Scrutinizing Committee. Inserted in Section 17, that committee will be comprised of one representative from the Religious Community, to be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Belize Council of Churches and the Belize Evangelical Association, one representative from the business community to be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Belize Chamber of Commerce, one representative from the Unions after consultation with the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. The committee will have seat the CEO in the Ministry of Immigration, Human Development and National Security, the Director of Immigration, as well as a representative of the Attorney General’s Ministry, nominated by the Attorney General. Act is further amended by repealing Section 12, that section describes economic citizenship. In addition, upon granting a certificate of registration to a person, that person’s name and address will be published. The bill in addition intends to implement stiffer penalties to a person registered as a Belizean citizen by fraud, false representation and without having satisfied the requirements of the Act, on indictment will be liable to imprisonment for five to fifteen years and to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand dollars. Applications submitted before the commencement of this Act will not be dealt with under the new regulations.