The Barrow administration has refused a call from the Opposition People’s United Party to hold a Commission of Inquiry into reports alleging irregularities in the issuance of visas via Havana, Cuba, and Quito, Ecuador, to Chinese and Sri Lankan nationals, as well as the 33 Asians who reportedly landed on 3 flights at the Philip Goldson International Airport, a discovery now subject to criminal investigations and prosecution.
Opposition Leader Johnny Briceño raised concerns over at least two of the Sri Lankans listed, indicating that a name search found terrorists bearing the same name, and the issuance of “one-way visas by the bucket loads out of Cuba without supporting documents...”
“If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to lose. Ask him to appoint a commission of inquiry into the immigration scandal,” said Briceño.
In the House on Friday, he read detailed information on specific batches of visas issued through Cuba and Ecuador between 2008 and 2010.
The last approval for which he read the particulars was given on 28 July 2010, when a total of 14 approvals were granted. Briceño said that they have information on 143 such cases.
When you do the math, said Briceño, the government should have collected BZ$1,730,000 dollars for the visas.
Briceño said that a broader inquiry, beyond the criminal investigations, is necessary.
The Belize Honorary Consul in Ecuador became very concerned about Asians showing up with one-way visas; the Ecuadorian police have been asking a lot of questions, said Briceño.
There are rumors that the Punta Gorda port is now being used as a port of entry to avoid public attention, Briceño also said.
Faruq Umar was mentioned as a name that raises some concern. There are several people with the same name, including an individual who was mentioned in a New York Times article that alleged that he was suspected by the FBI of being involved in the bombing of a plane headed to Detroit. Briceño said that we don’t know if this is the same Faruq who was given a Belize visa because “the Embassy in Cuba did no Interpol check.”
Minister of Immigration Carlos Perdomo responded to Briceño’s comments, saying that while Briceño had cited 143 cases of visas Perdomo contends were legally issued, the former administration had given out much more in the months just before the general elections of 2008.
“When you all were in power, this is what you brought in 2007 just before elections: 1,190 [Chinese], plus 458 Cubans. Who was in Havana then? Who was the Minister of Immigration then? You guys are full of hypocrisy....
“It would take us 10 years to reach 1 year that you gave,” Perdomo said. “...don’t come here throwing stones when you have a whole quarry that we can stone you with.” Amandala