BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 26, 2016–Passport and Nationality documents held by Peter William Dahlstrom, brother-in-law of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, may have been among the 55,000 plus which were issued with irregularities, according to a special audit into the Passport, Visas and Nationality Department for the period 2011-2013 completed by the Office of the Auditor General.
According to the audit, Dahlstrom, who has been married to the sister of PM Barrow’s wife, Kim Simplis, for more than 20 years, did not qualify for citizenship in 2012 because he had not spent a complete year in Belize, as is required.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister recommended him for his nationality documents.
At a press conference held on September 1, Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse passionately defended the processsing of Dahlstrom’s document and went on the record to say, “The gentleman was married in 1994 and in 2012 that gave me something like 20 years almost or close, and the law says, and this is why I was surprised at the good gentleman from the Opposition, because I had legal advice from Mr. Ghandi on this matter many times before, who clearly made the point to me that when you are dealing with persons by marriage, the law says very clearly that the requirements for marriage under section 11 are as follows: that the applicant qualifies under paragraph A and C of subsection 1 of 10.
“That simply means that he is older than 18 and intends to be in the country. B) That the applicant has been resident in Belize throughout a period of 1 year immediately preceding the date of the application of such applicant and C) that the applicant is the spouse or widow of a Belizean. That’s what it says. But it didn’t stop there, because the drafters of the legislation were aware of this one-year residency requirement and the fact is that people who are busy or people who are businessmen who go and come and would break that, would never ever be able to be registered if they had to stay here for a year locked down from 1st January to 31st December. We are not a stupid country. So they put in a clause that says ‘for purposes of residency required specified in section 3B above, if any applicant marries a Belizean citizen such applicant shall be deemed to have been legally resident in Belize from the date of such marriage.’
“Which means that Mr. Dahlstrom is deemed to be resident in Belize from that time.”
Today, Monday, the Opposition PUP issued a statement headlined, “Minister Godwin Hulse knowingly misleads the public,” in which they rebut the explanation he had given previously in defense of the granting of nationality documents to the Prime Minister’s brother in law.
The statement reads that in an interview on Love FM’s morning show on September 15, Hulse, “Stated that in 1998 the Immigration Act was amended to allow for persons married to a Belizean to acquire Belizean nationality without having to live in Belize for a year. This is totally untrue and is a deliberate attempt by Minister Hulse to mislead the people of Belize.”
According to the PUP, to qualify for nationality through marriage a foreigner must have been living in Belize for one year prior to applying and must intend to continue living in Belize. Furthermore, it clarified that the amendment made in 1998 never altered the definition of being legally resident or ordinarily resident, the party said.
The statement supported the view of the Auditor General, whose report, the PUP says, “did not shy away from this amendment, which Minister Godwin Hulse wants the public to believe that she did. In fact, the Auditor General clearly stated the law as it has stood since the amendment and laid it out on Page 171 of the Nationality Report of the Special Audit.”
The PUP statement goes on, not only to describe the explanation on the 1998 amendment made by Minister Godwin Hulse as false, but also to warn that the processing of that particular nationality document went against the Ministry of Immigration’s internal policies and law on immigration and nationality.
The PUP’s release concluded, “that even if Minister Godwin Hulse and Prime Minister Barrow would want us to accept their interpretation of this amended Section 11 of the Nationality Act, the fact is their interpretation still does not create a residency for Mr. Dalhstrom, the Prime Minister’s brother-in law, since residency never existed.”
The PUP maintains that only a continuous one-year residency prior to applying for nationality and the intention to remain in the country can satisfy the requirements for applying for nationality.