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May 19, 2016

UNHCR Will Still Feature in Refugee Program

As we reported on Thursday, Government has been forced to do a complete about-turn on a local refugee program which has come under intense and sustained scrutiny. Help for Progress, an N.G.O. working under the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, has literally received applications from hundreds of immigrants seeking refugee status. From what we’ve been able to find out, Help for Progress actually did all the screening of applicants including interviews. It’s an interesting thing, but a thing no more. In a terse release coming out of Cabinet G.O.B. threw the N.G.O. under the bus, and instructed it, and any other unauthorized entity to cease and desist. We tried to reach Help for Progress for comment today, only to be told that any comment would have to come from government. Just before that release was issued, UNHCR’s Senior Protection Associate Katy Tobin explained the relationship between Help for Progress and the government.


Katy Tobin

Katy Tobin, Senior Protection Associate, UNHCR

“Not everybody does classify as a refugee. The standards are quite high; there are many requisites that one has to meet to be eligible for refugee status in Belize or any country. Under the Belize Refugee Act, to be a refugee, you have to establish that you have a well-founded fear of prosecution—so prosecution being a very severe form of harm like death or the violation of one’s fundamental human rights. And then they have to establish that that fear of severe harm, prosecution, is on account of either their race, their religion, potentially their critical opinion; their membership in a particular group, a profile in society that is being targeted at the time. So they have to link that harm that they fear upon return with one of these, what we call five protective grounds. That is why this whole training phase has been so key because the decision makers here in Belize have had to really go through quite a bit of training to know how to make these legal determinations. The process is extremely transparent; UNHCR is working hand in hand with the Immigration Department and really taking, following their lead. It is a process that is dictated by the Refugee Act itself. So what we are implementing is a very well-defined process that is derived from the 1951 Convention and now applied in Belize. We are happy to continue to educate the public on the process and you know do meetings and meet with different interest groups so that they can understand better who these people are and why they are seeking protection here in Belize. And I think, like I mentioned before, some people that are registering at Help for Progress, with UNHCR will ultimately qualify as refugees based on that criteria that I mentioned before. Some will not; some I think maybe arrived to Belize for other reasons, for family reunification and economic reasons. And that’s why I think it is important to have a legal, formal process because the process will ultimately weed out people that don’t qualify and that are not in need for international protection.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “UNHCR Will Still Feature in Refugee Program”

  1. Rose says:

    Protection???? That is pure baloney! These people are here illegally squatting on crown land or land which have owners already. They pillage and burn our resources and in all of this are given preferential treatment by the goverment and cuddled by the UN agencies. The UN needs to stay out of our business! Stop interfering where it does not concern you!

  2. Simon says:

    That may be true but people need help so we to support not to judge today is them tomorrow they going to help us somehow mercy on those who need our help and may God have mercy on us and may God bless you.

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