Undocumented Cuban Nationals transiting Belize is a Problem
During our conversation with Minister Eamon Courtenay, we asked about the increasing number of undocumented Cubans being caught in Belize. As we’ve been reporting, there has been an increase of incidents where undocumented migrants have been caught in the country, with most entering the country through the western border. In most cases, persons originating from Cuba have been arrested. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Courtenay it’s a problem that his ministry is addressing.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “It’s a problem. First of all we have pending for October bilateral talks with Cuba on migration in which we are going to take a deep dive into these issues and see how we can work together on that very important issue. Secondly there are regional flows and we have detected trends and the way in which these migrants move and we have to work on our regional basis with the countries through which they are passing, countries which are facilitating them to see whether we can come up with a common plan to try to stem the movement of illegal migrants particularly the Cubans. We had a management meeting yesterday in the Ministry of Immigration and we spent about two hours on this very topic looking at the numbers, looking at the flows, looking at the persons and Belize who are facilitating this illegal trade. Some recommendations have been made and a cabinet paper is being prepared to send to cabinet on this issue. The long and short of it is that we have noted a significant increase in the number of illegal and irregular migrants coming through Belize, Cubans being a significant increase. And so we are going to be talking with our colleagues the Cuban government as well as regional regionally and we will have to put some measures in place in Belize to address the issue.”
According to Minister Eamon, one of the most challenging tasks is deporting Cuban nationals to their home country.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The big challenge for us is how do you get them back? There are no direct flights, there are occasional flights related to the medical program and if there is space we will put them on but there’s usually not space because we are rotating the brigade. Challenges have now developed for example I’m sure you all reported on the Copa flight. When we put them on the Copa flight they made big disturbances so the captain said take them off. Countries through which they have the transit, Guatemala for example on TAG, Copa to Panama are now saying we will no longer allow you to use our airline and our airports to transit some of these people so Cuba presents a particular challenge. We are working with the Cuban government and as I say we have migration talks middle of next month to try to address this problem period the difficulty is it is the obligation of Belize in such instance at our cost to send them back to their country of origin. The problem is how do we do it? If you can imagine chartering a plane it’s tens of thousands of dollars and you know that’s the type of money we need to spend on something else so it’s really a difficult challenge but we are dealing with it.”