It has been well over two years that the Refugee Eligibility Committee was formed to process applications for refugees in Belize. So far, we understand that about fifteen persons have been granted refugee status and there are hundreds of applications more that are left to be considered. Minister of Immigration, Godwin Hulse says the situation is complex but that government is looking at the situation.
Agricultural Minister Hulse: “Yes some have been approved and there is a lot pending but the Refugees Association for Belize is a touchy one. UNDP has been pushing us, pushing us. The US Government has been pushing us but I will say candidly to look at the US Refugee and Immigration situation. We have to turtle ourselves because we don’t know what is going to happen in the north. Everybody here knows President Trump and his issue with illegal immigrants and who is being deported and so forth and charity begins at home. We are a small country. We have to reserve space for people who may be sent back to our country who are Belizean’s who we cannot say no to and so resources are required for all of this and when we settle refugees there is land involved, there is school involved, there is medical involved etc and we have Belizean’s who have the same status. In fact sometimes it gets to point where our heart bleeds but again we have to work within our structure and so forth and I will also add the Refugee Act is very simple. It says 14 days, some of these people have been here 6,7,8,10,15 years so they are using the refugee situation as a means to legalize themselves and they are not refugees in the true sense. They may be economic migrants the way a lot of people go to the states to look for a better way of life. They come from Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras to look for a better way of life. Not refugees as such running from anything which is the concept of a refugee that please give me shelter because I am getting out of trouble so that is something that we have to bear in mind as well. At the last conference we looked at how we could legalize some of these people in a different mechanism rather than bring them through a refugee root. Some of them are a year long, some of them have children born here etc. and unlike again what you are hearing in the north Belize does not have a policy. We have international agreements that we have signed separating mothers and children so children born here are Belizean’s, that’s a fact. We can’t deport the mom and keep the children, we don’t have those facilities.”
Persons interested in applying for refugee status in Belize have a window of fourteen days from the day they first arrive into the country to make an application.