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#375522 - 05/04/10 09:23 AM Belizeans Delayed for Hours at Border
Marty Offline
Media houses throughout Belize get releases very regularly form the Mexican Embassy in Belize, issuing polite advisories on new border regulations, visits by Mexican dignitaries or something as simple as a notice of when Mexico switched to Daylight Savings Time.

But there was no public notice given of a change of procedure at the Belize-Mexico border at Chetumal that went into effect on Saturday. Instead of simply presenting their passports at the border, Belizeans now have to fill out an immigration form.

That’s understandable. After all Mexico is modernizing it’s border facilities, but the method and the abruptness of the introduction of this new form created chaos at the border on Saturday.
Jules Vasquez was in the mix. Jules Vasquez Reporting
After waiting in line to get unto the Belize-Mexico bridge (because Mexicans coming out of the zone are given right of way) – Belizeans arriving at the Mexican Immigration (the INM) were greeted by record lines that snaked along the length of the building and spilled into the parking lot – all because of this new form – implemented on Saturday without notice to the travelers. The problem was that the form could only be filled out once travelers were inside the room –and being that the form featuring about 30 fields that had to be filled out was only available in Spanish and the authorities refused to distribute it to those who were waiting in the line, it caused chaos.

Most waited in line 3 hours. Many were in line at noon had left Belize on the 5:30 AM bus and at noon they were just getting into the room. And while Belizeans had to endure eternal queues, North American and European visitors were processed without having to wait in the line.

And of course, this being Mexico, those who didn’t want to line up, could pay a bribe only -- 5 dollars. They stuffed the money in their passport and they were given a form like this – a student pass from 2009 – which was being handed out to anyone young or old who paid the ‘mordida.’

The Embassy’s Public Relations Officer, Marecelino Miranda, today explained and apologized.

Marcelino Miranda, Public Relations Officer, Mexican Embassy
"Now, from the first of May, the Government of Mexico implemented a new immigration system all around Mexico in all the borders. Obviously, this meant a challenge for a busy border, one of the busiest in Mexico, that is, the Belizean border. In the past, Belizeans especially those who visited Chetumal, they just needed the passport and most of the time, they didn't fill out any form. But now, obviously, they have to fill this form because this is a national policy in which all visitors have to fill out this form, as it happens in all countries in the world, you have to fill in this form. The Embassy is very concerned and obviously Mexican authorities are very concerned about what is happening in terms of implementing this new system and obviously there has to be some adjustments to this new system."

Jules Vasquez
"You can understand how people would feel that Mexico which has so long extended a hand of fraternity towards Belizeans, seems to think these people are undesirables and if you want to come, you have to wait in a 3 hour line and that’s that."

Marcelino Miranda, Public Relations Officer, Mexican Embassy
"The Embassy of Mexico understands the frustration for any people waiting a long time for getting into Mexico but there is no policy whatsoever in Mexico about Belizeans regarded in this way. On the contrary, there is a policy and also a feeling by Mexican people that Belizeans are very welcome.”

Jules Vasquez
"At the same time though, this is the welcome to Mexico. When the official welcoming agency, which is the Immigration, actively practices discrimination against Belizeans. Europeans didn’t have to wait. Americans didn't have to wait. Belizeans were the only ones that had to queue up for 3 hours. You can understand how people would feel that we are going over to Mexico to spend hundreds of dollars, all the money we can, and we are treated like cattle. You can understand how people would feel that way."

Marcelino Miranda, Public Relations Officer, Mexican Embassy
“Yeah we understand, and that's the reason the Embassy of Mexico and also officials in Mexico immediately took action, in order to do something about that. At the same time, the Mexican embassy apologizes for all this inconvenience to all Belizeans because at the same time, MExico as a country and as a people, we are welcoming Belizeans. We don't discriminate. We don't have that kind of general policy of discrimination of any sort. So we are welcoming Belizeans to come and we apologize about this to all the Belizean public."

Jules Vasquez
“People were being allowed in if they paid a 5 dollar bribe ,they were given a student pass, and they didn't have to go through all the bureacracy. And secondly, Europeans, or those appearing to be Europeans and Americans did not have to go in the line. The line was reserved for Belizeans. So it is particularly corrupt and also discriminatory against Belizeans. How do you respond to that?"

Marcelino Miranda, Public Relations Officer, Mexican Embassy
"Lots of people have reported some cases of corruption at the border but this is not a generalized situation in Mexico."

One of the measures being taken is that in the future, the forms will be handed out to those while they are waiting in line, which should make the delay shorter. Also forms will be available in English and Spanish. The only persons who will not have to fill out a form are those who get a special transit card from the Mexican Immigration. The Belize border with Mexico is that country’s second busiest border. The Mexican border with Guatemala is the busiest.

Channel 7

#375704 - 05/05/10 05:24 PM Re: Belizeans Delayed for Hours at Border [Re: Marty]
Cooper Offline
Not what we went through on Monday, they were not expediting Europeans and U.S.A passports...EVERYONE was processed in the same manner. The traffic was so backed up the express bus driver had us get out and walk..we walked at least a mile with our luggage as the bus once it crossed had to park about a half mile away as well.The line circled half the outside building...another reason for the backup was it being a Holiday weekend. It took us from 7 am leaving Caye Caulker, til 3.30 to get to Chetumal. Our plan was to take the water taxi from San Pedro but were told it was canceled due to high winds.


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