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Nov 4, 2019

U.N.H.C.R. Holds Media Training

Belize is traditionally known to open its doors to refugees, in particular those from Central America countries who come here seeking a better life. Some resettle for economic reasons and others arrive in the Jewel fleeing very difficult situations in their homeland. There continues to be a steady interest in Belize and the United Nations High Commission has been working hand in hand with the government in support of the refugee programme.   Over the weekend, UNHCR hosted a training session for local journalists to provide a better understanding on the status of refugees as well as their contributions. Hipolito Novelo files the following report.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Journalists, on Saturday, converged at the Biltmore in Belize City to participate in a one-day training session facilitated by the UN Refugee Agency. Senior Consultant for UNHCR Janice Marshall focused on the international regional context and legal basis regarding asylum seekers and refugees.


Janice Marshall

Janice Marshall, Senior Consultant, U.N.H.C.R.

“The purpose of the training is really to create more awareness amongst the community of journalists and media works in Belize so that they have a deeper understanding who it is that is coming to Belize, what are the characteristics of a refugee, why are they coming to Belize and how the government determines to protect people in Belize. The real purpose behind it is to create more public awareness about refugees and more sympathy for refugees and to advocacy on behalf of refugees because they are not a threat to the country. They are great contributing members of the community.”


Twenty-eight persons have been granted refugee status and the applications of more than three thousand asylum seekers are still being processed, awaiting the final approval of the Immigration Minister.  The applications are submitted by citizens of neighbouring countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.


Janice Marshall

“There has been an increase in numbers since there have been trouble and displacement from the surrounding Central American counties, the numbers have been increasing. There hasn’t been an increase for this year that I am aware of but it has been fairly steady. In the Belize Refugees Act, they are entitled to a work permit. They are entitled to work or to start their own business. They are entitled to an identification card as a refugee. They are entitled to live in the country and go to school and do all the normal things as a person living in the country would need to do; have a normal life.”


A section of the training focused on the usage of filmmaking to protect vulnerable persons and confidentiality issues. The topics according to Marshall are geared towards helping reporters identify protection issues that will enhance coverage of refugee issues on the local media.


Janice Marshall

“It helps them to understand that is part of a much bigger international phenomenon that I going on right now but also they can understand the legal basis and also the difference between an ordinary everyday migrants who come for economic reasons, family reasons, medical treatment or education and a refugee who has had to flee their country and can’t safely go home again. This difference is trying to promote a greater understanding of.  I hope that they go home understanding that there is a legal basis for refugees, that not everyone who comes to Belize is refugees but those who are refugees get properly recognize and become advocates for promoting better  understanding amongst the general public why refugees need our protection in Belize.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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