Earlier we told you Maria Marin heading the Refugee Secretariat. In speaking with Love News, CEO Edmund Zuniga spoke on the mandate of the Secretaraiat.
“The Director of Refugees heads the office of Refugees. That office is really the secretariat for the Refugee Committee which considers application for asylum by persons who want to get refugee status in Belize. The committee is called the Refugee Eligibility Committee and the Director of Refugees is the chairperson of that committee.”
CEO Zuniga also spoke on Belize’s status as it relates to applications and acceptance of refugees.
“You know that Belize is a signatory to a convention which says that any person who is seeking asylum in a particular country to be accepted based on certain requirements. Belize is a signatory and we do have persons who come to Belize seeking asylum from different countries including some countries in Central America. In terms of where we are right now, the Refugee Eligibility Committee was re-established last year I think around May and have been looking at applications for asylum from persons seeking asylum from various countries. At this point in time I know that we have reviewed something like a little over forty files here at the ministry. I know that at the Immigration Department applications continue to come in and the Refugee Eligibility Committee continues to meet on a regular basis to consider the applications that come to the attention of the committee. The person is issued a special permit by the Immigration Department which only allows the person to stay in the country legally. The country would then have to approach the Labor Department to apply for a work permit if he or she desires to work. I don’t think that you can be allowed to vote on a special permit. In order to vote one has to have nationality as far as I understand it.”