Concerns set in earlier today when a recorded message went viral stating that several Guatemalans were allowed to travel from the Philip Goldson International Airport to the western border. The concern heightened when the recording indicated that the taxi driver who took the Guatemalans to the western border is now under quarantine in Arenal. Residents in that area were reportedly up in arms and the recording rose suspicions since it was recognized as the voice of a Belizean Ambassador. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Sedi Elrington and his CEO, Annie Burns met with several members of the press to clarify the situation and to assure the Belizean public that nothing out of the ordinary was done.
Annie Burns, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: In this particular case, because again I will repeat that until we receive further notice there is nothing to prohibit a Guatemalan national from entering PGIA okay? In this particular case that I understand you to be referring to we had two Guatemalan nationals entering; one was a member of Central American Parliament and another was a student who were then travelling on to their homes in Guatemala closer to Belize in Peten and we were indeed contacted by the Guatemalan ambassador to Belize Georges de la Roche and his team and that is a good thing, they did absolutely everything correct, there is absolutely nothing incorrect that was done by ambassador de la Roche and his team and in fact it was helpful for Belize to know that we had two people entering so we knew where they were coming from and we had a clear idea of the passport numbers so it helps us as well in terms of checking in to see if they have any symptoms and clearly if they had had symptoms they would not have been allowed to transit on.”
CEO Burns went on to explain that while the western border is closed for entry, foreigners are still allowed to leave.
Annie Burns, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs:“Yes Guatemala closed its border with Belize, Belize closed its border but we have not at any point prevented Guatemalans from entering or departing Belize. Remember these planes are still coming to Belize, they have nationals from certain countries I’ve brought copies of the advisory to share with you but it is a misunderstanding to think that we are doing something wrong in allowing Guatemalans to return to their country. In similar fashion now our border is closed for entry for anyone but Belizeans, Belizeans are allowed at that border to come in so it’s really important – I think I would want to say that at this time everybody feels uneasy, people are a bit nervous and we need in times like this not to be hasty. The language is really clear and you all in the press need to know as well that if there are any changes that come up in terms of the decisions or policy for the border that one those decisions are taken after consultations, two there is the oversight committee and there is a task force and we have both Prime Minister and Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition on that and then we have a task force so nothing is done in a vacuum and all of this information any changes will be communicated as they arrive through the Government Press Office. We are open of course if you have questions to clarify and today the big thing to clarify is that nobody has done anything wrong in terms of Guatemalans who may be entering Belize and wishing to depart to go to their countries. Our borders will be closed for them to come in at the Western border remember PGIA is open, if PGIA closed it would be a separate matter but that airport is open at this time and so we have to be a little careful about jumping to – although it’s understandable because people are worried and afraid but we ought not to jump to conclusions.”
And while nothing prohibited the Guatemalans to leave Belize, air carriers are now canceling flights into Belize. A notice was sent out this morning as explained by the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero.
The Ministry of Immigration is tightening up on border controls. Acting Immigration Director, Deborah Estrada, was a part of this morning’s webcast with Dr. Manzanero. She spoke on what these tightening measures are, especially at the illegal entry points in Belize.