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Asylum seekers granted refugee status in Belize

Fifteen persons have been granted refugee status in Belize. Minister responsible for Immigration Beverly Williams approved the applications. We are told that twenty applications were denied and dozens more have not been reviewed. This is the first time in more than twenty years that a group of persons have been granted refugee status in Belize. In May 2016, the Refugee Eligibility Committee was reactivated after several years of dormancy. Since then hundreds of persons seeking asylum and fleeing from persecution such as gang violence, have applied for refugee status in Belize. The Committee is chaired by the Director of Refugees, Maria Marin. The committee which is made up of several entities such as the NTUCB, BCCI and the Belize Council of Churches, receives applications for consideration after which recommendations are submitted to the Minister of Immigration for approval. Statistics compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2016 shows that since 2015, the Refugee Eligibility Committee has recommended more than 200 persons for recognition as refugees, and final endorsement remains pending with the Ministry of Immigration. Asylum Seekers in Belize through December 2016 amounted to close to four thousand people. About two thousand asylum seekers were provided with direct humanitarian assistance in 2016. Fifty eight percent asylum seekers come from El Salvador with the remainder fleeing from Guatemala and Honduras.