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IOM, the UNHCR and UNICEF sign joint agreement to strengthen migrant policies

Belize’s Amnesty program was launched at the start of the month by the Ministry of Immigration and since then more than ten thousand persons have signed up. The program is designed to respond to the issue of migrants, who are residing in Belize illegally or are recommended, asylum seekers. The ministry is being assisted by several non-governmental organizations which are stepping in to reach as many people as possible. Today, a step was made by these NGOs to provide greater support. Reporter Vejea Alvarez was there and has the story.

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Over 60,000 undocumented migrants are living in Belize and the Gocvernment is aiming to regularise their status through its ongoing amnesty program. The International Organization of Migration, IOM Belize, the UNHCR, and UNICEF Belize, signed a joint UN Migration plan. The initiative focuses on outlining strategies which can assist in integrating migrants and refugees into the amnesty program. Alison Parker, UNICEF representative for Belize explained why this agreement is particularly critical.

Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative Belize: “This work plan includes strategies to improve the national asylum system and processes in support of social cohesion and integration. UNICEF’s position remains unchangeable and we will repeat as we have done before. In any country, a child is a child. No matter where they live, where they’re from, where they are, or how they got here. They have the right and they are entitled to access every social service that is available.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The work plan will see the agencies provide each other with the resources and information needed to reach migrants across the country that are having issues with applying for the amnesty program. Diana Locke, Director of the IOM says that the problem areas are rural communities particularly in the south.

Diana Locke, Director, IOM, Belize: “Primarily right now, the focus within those offices, the workflow is definitely for the amnesty. So they have covered at least 4000 people also and because in the last work plan year, because a part of what we’re doing this year also is a continuation from last year. In the packet I gave, you have some specifics figures as to what we covered in last year’s work plan and we will be providing an update when this work plan continues.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Head of Office at the UNHRC Belize Myrat Murdov added that the agreement acts as a re-commitment between the organisations to continue their work in protecting the rights of migrants and refugees. He explains how the UNHCR is offering assistance to those in the far reaching areas of the country. 

Myrat Muradova, Head of Office: We do provide them with transportation through our partners, Help for Progress, Humana, and HRCB, Human Rights Commissioner of Belize in the various districts where the population of concern are places where refugees do reside. So that includes transportation assistance to the destinations of whether it is hospitals, police officers, where they can obtain medical certificates with the TB and HIV testing. They get police record certificates as well as support with the translation documents and reaching where the Embassy is very required so this material support will not only be limited to the currently identified vulnerable groups which we as I mentioned we estimate 1200 persons to be supported. But also we’ll be on that because amnesty is a three faced process. It’s initial application process eventually vetting and finally the actual decisions and the documentation.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: And the work these organisations are doing is extremely important. According to CEO of Immigration, Dr. Gilroy Middleton, he explained that so far the number of persons applying for amnesty has been rather low. But with the signing of this joint agreement he is hoping to see those numbers rise. 

Dr. Gilroy Middleton, CEO of Immigration: “We were looking at a total of 6000 plus individuals, that would include applicants and their dependents who would be a spouse or a child in terms of the raw number so it’s approximately 7000. Thus far we’ve gotten some 3000 applications. So the way it worked out the first month would have the highest concentration so almost 50% of the total appointments were made in the first month of August so they way it looks now. So the way it looks now, it would be September, October, November. We have 50% of the applicants will be slated for that time.” 

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Vejea Alvarez, Love News