BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 29, 2019– After months of public criticism and demonstrations condemning the unsatisfactory work of the Vital Statistics Unit, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Michael Peyrefitte has addressed the media on what he considers to be the real sources of the problems. While accompanied by the Assistant Registrar of Vital Statistics as well as the Deed Poll and Corrections Clerk, Hon. Peyrefitte highlighted an extensive list of reasons why some Belizeans find coming to the Vital Statistics Unit to be unpleasant and ineffective. Some of these issues include, applicants not knowing the proper name given to them at birth, persons being registered with an incorrect date of birth, and even persons who have never been registered at all. According to the Attorney General, there are procedures in place when persons’ information are not documented accurately, or when persons would like to apply for late registrations, but Belizeans need to be patient and understand that there are certain measures to be taken to get their documents.
“For the few people who complain, many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people — they go through smoothly because they have the right information and they come to the office with the right attitude,” remarked Peyrefitte. In the defense of the Vital Statistics Unit, the Attorney General also commented on the immense volume of work coming into the unit, which is being handled by only twenty-seven employees working countrywide. Since November of 2018 when the unit came under the care of the Attorney General, forty-two thousand (42,000) documents have been issued from Vital Statistics — thirty-three thousand (33,000) being birth certificates and two thousand six hundred and fifty six (2,656) being marriage certificates.
In light of these circumstances, it is Mr. Peyrefitte’s opinion that things are going well: “The volume alone is tremendous. So when you add the difficulties that we have with the volume that we’ve had to service, in my view, the people at the Vital Stats are doing a tremendous job, “ he said. The Attorney General did take into account the need for records to be provided more efficiently, something he says can only be done with a new electronic database, however he states that this is a costly endeavor and does not want to reallocate funds from sectors that are more important to accommodate this need.
For the time being, his main concern is that a birth certificate is not granted to anyone who was not born in Belize, because this could lead to the acquisition by such persons of other public documents under fraudulent circumstances. Questions were also raised about issues concerning customer service, and the misfortune of the persons who were actually born in Belize but have been denied a birth certificate, disenfranchising them from participating in the upcoming referendum. The deed poll clerk, Mr. James Cleland, as well as Mr. Peyrefitte assured the media that applicants will always be assisted, even if their information is not present in the digital systems or ledger at the unit, as long as they are willing to provide further proof that they were born in the country. Any failure to prove this will result in the applicant not receiving a Belizean birth certificate.
Hon. Peyrefitte additionally stated that there are many persons, especially from the Toledo District, who are not Belizean-born, and are incapable of providing adequate proof that they were born in the country, who publically demonstrate and lodge complaints against the unit. Upon investigating these cases, the Vital Statistics Unit has identified many nationals from Peten, Guatemala, and various parts of the world, seeking a Belizean birth certificate and this is why their applications have been denied.