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May 6, 2016

Belize Will Possibly Shelter Refugees Heading to the U.S.

Dean Barrow

So why the sudden urgency for a massive refugee program, or amnesty program of sorts? Is it the result of pressure from the U.S.? It’s possible because it is joined by another program called protection transfer, under the auspices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Again, sources tell us that the problem with both these programs is that there is no screening and no vetting, even a pre-approval of sorts. Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained at his press conference on Thursday.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“There is no assistance, no program with the UN. We have reactivated our refugee committee, and there are applicants for refugee status in this country. The UN High Commission for Refugees has proposed to Belize that we enter into a so called Transfer protection agreement with them that would see Belize accept on a kind of in transit basis applicants from El Salvador who are seeking refugee status in the U.S.  So they would be transiting Belize and under the proposal would remain here with host families for a period not to exceed six months until they can then proceed to the United States. While that proposal has been made, while the Cabinet has been looking at it, there has been no agreement, but we have certainly made clear that if we ever reach the point where we are satisfied that such a program should in principle proceed we would first put it out to the social partners and to the general public in order to get Belizean reaction.”

 

Beverly Castillo

Beverly Castillo, Minister of State, Immigration

“I am aware that the Protection Transfer program that was initiated by the UNHCR recently which brings persons who reside outside of Belize through Belize as a transfer station and on to the U.S., that there is a pre-screening and pre-approval of those.”

 

Reporter

“But isn’t that what the Prime Minister said has not started yet and that there must be a consultation process before that even starts?”

 

Beverly Castillo

“That’s what I’m saying. That’s a proposed program. Cabinet has agreed that we will look at that program. And if Cabinet is inclined to say yes, then we go to socializing and before we go to activating that program within Belize.”

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