A South African national has had his share of bad luck whilst in Belize. Tonight we bring you the story of 44-year-old Rupert Lulofs who was ordered by a local magistrate to spend one week to the Belize Central Prison with deportation to follow. According to Lulofs, his Belize visa had expired and when he went to immigration for help he was taken to court. He was taken to prison on 20 January 2020 and was to be released on 27 January 2020, and was to subsequently be taken to the Belize/Mexico border. It turns out, however, that Rulofs was not released until 5 February 2021. Our colleagues at Plus TV spoke to Lulofs earlier today. (Article excerpted from LOVE-FM news)
Rupert Lulofs, South African: “I went to the Belmopan Immigration office and I spoke to a Mr.Albert and I told him my story, that was on Thursday the 16th of January 2020 and he told me I needed to go back to Placencia to get my passport because he knew the whole story behind it and that I had to return back on Monday the 20th of January 2020 which I duly did when immigration opened for the day. From there Mr.Albert said I needed to go, he told me as we left the immigration office that we were going to speak to a Magistrate in fact he took me straight to the Belmopan holding cells and from there I went to the Magistrate’s court where I told the Magistrate my story and the lady Magistrate said you know she didn’t see why the Belizeans should pay for somebody to spend six months – she should have given me six months but she didn’t see why the Belizean population should pay for a foreigner and she gave me one week which was from the 20th of January 2020 to the 27th of January 2020 or a fine of $1,005 Belize which I think was fair. Part of that she said is once I got released on the 27th of January 2020 that I was to be dropped off by immigration on the Belize Mexican border because at the time I had a valid Mexican visa which expired at the end of April 2020 and a ticket back to South Africa and you know that was an easy transaction so I said that’s fine. Having no funds I would like to waiver the departure tax I think it’s only fair considering it’s not my mess up and I would like a little bit of money to be able to stay myself in Guatemala I think it’s nothing big to ask someone considering Belize messed it up because if they had let me out on the 27th of January 2020 I wouldn’t be making this conversation and everything would have been fine.”
Since being released from prison twelve days ago, Lulofs has tried reaching out to government ministers, churches, and health officials for help; instead he has been locked up and threatened. According to Lulofs he just wants to return home, but he has no money. He says he has even reached out to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. After all those efforts, he decided to go to the media for help.
Rupert Lulofs, South African: “The 5th of February 2021 immigration released me. They took me to the immigration office in Belize and they told me that they didn’t really know what to do with us, there were five of us that were released and we were handed our passports and our deportation letters and told you have to leave in fourteen days which is this Friday the 19th of February. While I was in the prison I was fighting to try and get released. I approached Mr. Murrillo and later I got thrown in Adsec for four weeks and told by Mr.Murillo that I have a bad attitude. The prison had not tried to assist me in my release. They tried to hinder me. I was not allowed to make phone calls out and all my calls that were in were monitored. So I was helpless and I lost a lot of weight while I was in the prison , sometimes food would arrive with – beans would arrive with weevils in the food they brought it from the kitchen to the actual Tango section with weevils in it. So the Belizean people need to know that the prisoners are not being fed properly and they’re getting fed rubbish with weevils and uncooked meat.
Last week I tried to get help. Last Thursday I went to a lot of the PUP, tried to find a PUP minister who could help me. I was in Corozal at the time and I ended up in Orange Walk. I was told by a prison officer who I’d met at the prison but I don’t know what his name is that I should go to Mr. Johnny Briceño’s house which just happened to be down the road from where I was. So I went there and I said I’d like to speak to Mr. Briceño because I was told he could help me. I was picked up by the Orange Walk Police Department and thrown in the holding cell in Orange Walk for the night. Then I was told by the Police Chief whatever he is that I have to leave Orange Walk the following day which was Friday the 12th and if I was seen there they had orders to shoot me. I at no stage wanted to do any harm to the Prime Minister, I respected the Prime Minister, I liked what the Prime Minister said, I could see that Mr. Briceño was going to do great things for Belize okay And if I stayed in Belize I would have been one of his biggest supporters. Through all of the stress I landed up in the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan Saturday night not being able to urinate and that is purely through stress and yesterday I went to various departments. Yesterday I went back to the hospital to ask for the COVID test because through a friend I found out I could go through Guatemala with no visas or whatever because I’m a South African citizen and hold a passport and that all I needed was COIVD test and so the hospital told me yesterday evening to come back at eight o’clock this morning. I said to them I don’t have any funds, I have no money on me and they said don’t worry speak to a Ms.Gardiner and I did and she went to speak to I don’t know some department who said we don’t care we want $100 for the test. I said I don’t have anything , well the protocol says $100.”
After falling off the radar on January 20, 2020 a missing person’s report was filed by his family and friends back in South Africa. According to the report, Lulofs had migrated to Belize and had been living in Placencia.