Guatemalans lining up for work in Belize?

Reports are that a load of Guatemalan immigrants are coming across the Western border with temporary passes to work with Green Tropics, and this has raised major concerns.

However, Minister Godwin Hulse says that he is not aware of those reports.

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Hon Godwin Hulse – Minister of Labour

“I heard it on the news as well. But Santander can only employ people for which they have gotten work permits and as far as I know, they have not put in any application for work permits or any mass amount of people coming in. that’s all I can say at this time. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard it on the news as well and I’ve already asked some people to look into the matter. That’s all that I can say at this time.”

 

Reporter

“So they would have had to been issued with work permits before coming across?”

 

vlcsnap-2015-01-09-11h26m48s238Senator Godwin Hulse

“Nobody comes in just to work. I don’t want anybody to confuse the agreement that was recently signed you know. That agreement simply, that we signed with Guatemala, was to regularize this kind of thing and particularly for the banana and the citrus industry so that persons don’t come across who are not properly documented, stay in the country and eventually work their way into permanent residence and that kind of thing. It’s to declare clearly persons who we need to hire because we can’t find Belizeans and they will come only as seasonal workers; that is banana and citrus as far as we are concerned at this time. Santander, like any other company, has to apply for its work permits if it needs persons and it has to demonstrate to us why is it they need. We have a work permit committee you know that scrutinizes every application; it is not arbitrary at all.”

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Yet the perception seems to be that more and more immigrants are crossing our borders and reports are that 150 came across to work in citrus.

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Reporter

“Sir, one hundred and fifty citrus workers came across just yesterday morning. How does the system works, and how it’s always worked before and after the treaty, is that they don’t have any passports; somebody just comes with their names on a list, their work permits are approved and they come across. That’s how it works.”

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Hon. Godwin Hulse

“Used to work. The fact of the matter is that anybody who comes has three months, if they don’t have a passport, they have three months within which to get one.  They cannot come back as repeat employee without a passport. That is what we have put in when we started to monitor this in detail.

 As you know previously it was just to go and come, go and come, and some of them were here five-six-seven months without any documentation. Three months is the term we gave. And the reason we made that concession is because the citrus people claim that we will be closing down their business, they wouldn’t be able to get pickers, etc. So that is the way that works.”

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Minister Hulse also commented on the status of Director of Immigration Maria Marin.

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Godwin Hulse

“Miss Marin is on leave, not anything to do with her position..  I can categorically say there is no change.  She has more than 71 days accumulated, and you know our public officers can’t accumulate more than that.  So she to take some leave.  She comes back on the 15th.

Mr [Edmund] Zunega has not taken over.  Mr Zunega is a liaison officer that I have brought in last year. He’s there now about eleven months, to be able to help me with a whole lot of issues in Immigration and also in Labour.  That’s what he does.  He sits in my office actually.

I don’t think the Prime Minister is about to replace me.  You can ask him.  I don’t think Miss Marin will go as long as I’m there.

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Louis Wade – Plus News

“A question about Santander and it’s employment practices.  I have eyewitnesses who talk about the fact that when the people from the Labour Department try to visit the area, that they are tipped off ahead of time, and that many of the illegal workers run into the bushes. Santander, it’s location, when it comes to 1: access in, multiple checkpoints and so on, on the way.  What kind of problem is it providing for the Labour Department to monitor the rules and regulations, when it comes to labour within this country?”

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Godwin Hulse

“That is where people like you come in, Louis, people who have this kind of information.  I always say, ‘Bring it to us.’  If you know for a fact that there are illegals working there, and they run and hide in the bush, you simply bring that to us, and I can tell you this Minister will personally go down there. I have visited the place several times.

I will take the opportunity to say with Immigration, if you find there is a problem with any Immigration Officer, we put numbers on their sleeves.  They’re numbered like Police now.  You don’t have to call the name, [but] say officer number so and so give me hard time, and you report that to our Ministry, and we will deal with it.”

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According to Minister Hulse, he already responded to any evidence of wrong doing within his ministry.
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