Just recently the US State Department issued its report on Human Trafficking and Belize was downgraded as a result of not fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and not making any efforts to do so. Well, that is according to the 2015 report and Immigration Minister, Godwin Hulse, does not agree. Just yesterday, four Cubans who had entered the country illegally were caught in Belmopan and this is not the first instance, A few weeks ago, a group of Cubans were caught in Northern Belize-they too had entered the country illegally. Today, we asked Minister Hulse about that situation.
“There is always going to be trafficking that is worldwide phenomenon in fact there is was a conference yesterday to try to deal with this issue. People try to get to the United States that is still the land of opportunity and they will do so however they can. At the Ministry of Immigration and the department it is clear that we are vigilant to his and we have been catching people. Catching people and arresting them and sending them back and all these are costs on the department and are a cost to the departments and the economy but it’s something that we have to do there is no mechanism to prevent that, that is for sure we have 176 miles of border with Guatemala, we have an open sea and that sort of thing so people will try to come here from the south or the west to try to make it through, if they can through Mexico and into the United States and they are operatives who are prepared to promote that it’s big money. Sometime ago you will recall that we sent back some Indians and my heart really bled for them because they were Punjabis and the Punjabi community in Belize has appealed to us to release them from jail, we did and they were deported back but I know that one of my colleagues is who is the owner of the Big Falls farm is from the Punjab province from India actually went back to India to speak to people there to say “do not sell your property and come up with money to send your son to the United State because it is not a free ride through, they are going to be caught, arrested, they don’t know where they are going and can’t speak well. It’s not true that it’s the land of milk and honey and you land in Panama and go to Belize then to Mexico it is not true.” There are these people who exploit that and those are the criminals that we are trying to catch and those are the criminals that we would want to incarcerate so then we could ease up on this but that it will ever stop I am not sure. I will say categorically it’s unfair that we have been downgraded to tier 3 but that is the United States and they do their thing because it is not true in that sense. The Ministry of Human Development as CEO Judith Alpuche as she has said has done a tremendous amount of work in collaboration with the Ministry responsible for immigration and nationality. For peace sake we caught the people, we have border points that we try to strengthen we’ve just improved our system to record who come and go, people have been captured on camera so a lot has been done. The police and immigration departments are vigilant so downgrading to tier 3 would presume that we are sitting on our laurels and probably encouraging and it’s not true.”
The four male Cubans were on a bus that was heading from Benque to Belmopan.