The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Belize with the support of the United States Government and private sector partners, today held a signing award ceremony at the George price center in Belmopan for the establishment of Migrant Hubs. The hubs are being set up in Bella Vista, San Ignacio, and Belmopan City with the partnership of non-governmental organizations such as Humana People to People Belize, Belize Red Cross, and Child Development Foundation. Diana Locke, Head of Office for IOM Belize told us more about the migrant hubs.
Diana Locke, IOM Belize Head of Office: “IOM partnered with Child Development Foundation back in 2018 through the Western Hemisphere Program to share information through what they called at that time an information hub. We realized that we’ve been sharing a lot of information for at least two years but it hasn’t done a whole lot to change enough lives so when the Integrated Response and Migration Program came along we decided that we wanted to have a different thrust to that program instead of just additional information sharing we wanted to help people actually use that information to make a meaningful change in their lives. We spoke with the donor agency USAID and they agreed that we can set up migrant centers, we can use the funds to help people to complete application forms, provide translation services. Most of the challenges migrants face are interpreting the information that we have out there. It’s in English, very few of it is in Spanish, the forms are in English, they have those challenges completing the forms, sometimes they rely on people and they’re very vulnerable so they’re taken advantage of. What we hope to do through these centers is to actually equip our partners with what is necessary for them to help these migrants to complete the application forms. There are cases where you have people who have been living here for twenty years, have grown Belizean children just never had the opportunity to translate that into becoming regular and so those persons would qualify to come in to one of our centers if they don’t have a foreign country passport and this is particularly aimed toward Central America we will assist them in getting their country’s passport so that they can then continue the process in immigration. We then would facilitate them with helping them to fill out the visa application forms if they’re already in a proper status and wish to apply for residency after being here, extending their stay through the various permit opportunities we will then help them to complete those residence forms. Help them to complete nationality forms in cases of people who are married and qualified to be regularized so we’ll actually be helping them to complete the forms. We’re not taking them to immigration we will have everything, give them the requirements and then they will go into immigration and complete that part of the process on their own.”
Locke also spoke about how migrants are able to access the services of these hubs and how the strategic partners were chosen.
Diana Locke, IOM Belize Head of Office: We are going to be – well of course we’re going to be using our Facebook page. We have already put the word out in the community, we’ve been told there are people who are actually waiting for them to open their doors so that they can go in but we’ve been doing that through our partners, stakeholders, we’ve shared information with immigration. They do have a regularization program and sometimes they offer that to people who qualify but again people probably don’t always follow through because of the challenges of the language and not having some of the resources that they need so this is where they can do referrals to and people can come to us. So anyone in the community who is aware of people who may fit into any of these categories they can reach out, call, the centers will all be equipped with numbers that they can call for information and if they call our general office in IOM we will ask a few questions and direct them to the best center. We were looking for people who are engaged in activities and have established themselves in activities such as these, reaching out within communities we know Humana has been doing this for some time, we had partnered with Child Development Foundation in Belmopan and of course Red Cross is a world wide name and so these were automatically the first three that we reached out to. We had done activities with them before and they were interested.”
The funding for these hubs were provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration through the facilitation of the US Embassy in Belmopan. Political and Economic Chief of the US Embassy in Belmopan Andy Demerit spoke more about how the project was funded.
Andy Demerit, Political and Economic Chief of the US Embassy in Belmopan: “We had a successful center here in Belmopan and it did so well that we’ve decided to invest more USG resources into expanding these centers throughout Belize. So this is a regional project so Belize is one of six countries in Central America receiving $33 million dollars over five years. I think what’s really important is the new administration has put such an emphasis on migration. President Biden just issued an executive order yesterday after only two weeks in office that shows the priority that we give to protecting these vulnerable populations and the priority we put in having them have a dignified and safe return. So already they’ve returned almost a hundred people from Central America back to their home countries and they’ve been able to repatriate sixty almost Belizeans back home to Belize and I think that dignified and safe return is really the goal of what we’re looking for.“
IOM Belize is currently in the process of seeking partners in Belize City to construct a Migrant Hub in the old capital.