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Jan 24, 2022

8 Venezuelans Escape from UNHCR Care

They were to be returned to Panama over the weekend, but tonight, what is being categorized as “an unacceptable” turn of events, ended with eight Venezuelans escaping from custody and reportedly crossing the border into Mexico.  This morning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Immigration issued a release on those thirty-seven nationals from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Morocco that were refused leave to land in Belize. The first to be returned was the Dominican Republic national who was transferred to Guatemala on Friday, January twenty-first and taken back to Panama on TAG Airlines.  Nineteen Venezuelans and the Moroccan were taken back to Panama on Saturday via COPA Airlines. But that’s only twenty-one total. So, what happened to the other sixteen? Well, according to the report, eight Venezuelans sought refugee status in Belize, and so they were handed over to Help for Progress, a support arm to UNHCR in Belize. The other eight, including children, tested positive for COVID-19 and remain detained at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel until they are cleared and can be returned to Panama. But by mid-afternoon, UNHCR National Office in Belize informed the Ministry of Immigration that the eight persons escaped from the shelter and (Quote) “apparently made their way to Mexico.” (Unquote) Immigration Minister Eamon Courtenay says that there will now be need for strong protocols to govern future incidents like this one. During a press conference last week, Courtenay spoke about the concerns about South American migrants trying to make their way north.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Immigration

“I believe, because of the irregular flow of migrants, Guatemala has now imposed a visa requirement for Venezuelans and Ecuadorans going into Guatemala. Mexico, tomorrow I believe it is, Mexico will now impose a visa requirement for Venezuelans. Because of these hurdles persons are finding other ways to go north. We are in cooperation with our international partners who track these things and who look at flows, closely monitoring the flow of persons into and through Belize. As a result of this particular flight, we will have to have far more detailed discussions with the authorities in Panama. We will also have to have deeper discussions with the authorities from COPA. The Government of Belize, in cooperation with our partners and in accordance with law, intends to fight to the best of our ability against the irregular flow of migrants through Belize.”

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