Perhaps one of the most sticking incidents at the Youth Hostel was the fire that claimed the lives of three teenagers after they were locked inside one of the rooms and were unable to escape. After getting a firsthand visual of the facility, Minister Dolores Balderamos Garcia has personally committed to improving the living conditions of these young persons. She spoke to the media about the specific actions she will take to address these issues.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “I want to say for example that I will be looking very closely at the law. We have some very old laws like the Certified Institutions Act we have to bring all of that into confluence with the Families and Children Act which takes a more protective approach to children and for example I will be speaking with the Magistrates so that when there is a placement or a committal here it’s not for an indefinite period or until the person becomes eighteen. As one of my staff said yesterday this institution should be a very last resort and for the shortest period of time.”
Minister Balderamos also spoke about the importance of transparency and working together with the families of the residents to improve conditions.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs: “In terms of the systemic improvements and changes that we have to make we will have to work with the parents and the families because this place cannot be a seen as a dumping ground or when they accuse you of uncontrollable behavior they dump you at Mile 21 and forget about you. So we have to work with the parents and we will take the remit of families within the name of this ministry very seriously and like I say in a couple of months from now we are willing to report back to the Belizean people. And as I say in the interest of transparency and accountability we have invited the media in today – I understand this was off limits for many years, come back, give us notice come back whenever you want. I am going to – maybe throw out a little challenge to myself and Minister Usher- come back in four months time and we will see what we can do because children do not lose their human dignity by being in conflict with the law and so you have our pledge that we’ll do our best to fix as best as we possibly can what is happening here at this facility.”.
The media has been invited to return for another tour in four months.