At the end of 2017 it is estimated that 68.5 million people were displaced worldwide. Refugees worldwide flee their home countries due to persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. In February, fifteen persons were granted refugee status in Belize. This is the first time in more than twenty years that a group of persons has been granted refugee status in Belize. Minister of State responsible for Immigration, Beverly Williams says that the refugees are mainly from other Central American countries such as Honduras and El Salvador. Two days ago, Belize joined the global community in commemorating World Refugee Day. Minister Williams says that the day focuses on the plight of refugees around the world and efforts to protect their human rights.
Minister of Immigration Beverly Williams: I think government has demonstrated well its commitment to the refugee process however we are still in the building process of setting up a Department ensuring we are doing the right things. Looking at our obligations under the treaties and the laws and to ensure that everybody is treated fairly. There are lots of outstanding matters but we have to be careful of the message we send. Refugees come into the country, we are finding problems for people who have been living in Belize for years and now claim refugee status. I am very concern as a citizen of Belize, we welcome with open arms, we embrace because we are a country of migrants, people coming and fleeing but however we have to be careful that we just don’t send the wrong message that Belize is open for everybody just to come in and claim a refugee status and the law puts us in a corner where we have to be recognizing thousand and thousands of Asylum seekers into the refugee status and then how do we manage with the limited resources we have to ensure that we then meet our treaty obligation. Records will show that the people coming is there mainly from Central America indeed, particularly from Salvador where they have gang wars. Now Belize has its own problems with gangs and we recognize the high murder rate in Belize at this point and so when we screen, we have to properly screen them; my question to the participating organization is what are we doing in the other countries to ensure that there are corrective measures and that not everybody would want to flee and that there are some adjustments in the other countries to assure that they can’t return to some quality of life in their own country. They get smart indeed on us, they come in with a regular visa, there is a visa waiver for Central Americans and they come in and they would stamp in, generally they would get a stamp for thirty days and within fourteen days which is the requirement under law they come for a refugee status which is the fourteen day deadline so that is what I’m saying in structures. Yes there has been some increase in the refugee request because they get smart too. I believe some of them are economic migrants, I myself have in my very constituency people will come to say hey Minister can you help me and when you look how long you have been living in Belize: 9 Years. You didn’t come in, the law is specific and we have to enforce the law, it is within a fourteen day period.