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Jan 25, 2022

UNHCR Responds About Venezuelans Who Left Facility

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has responded to questions from News Five about the recent incident involving eight Venezuelan nationals who have reportedly left Belize and crossed into Mexico.  According to the refugee agency, seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article fourteen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNHCR has the mandate to protect asylum seekers and refugees around the world.  Last week, thirty-seven foreign nationals were refused leave to land in Belize, but they could be expelled immediately and were instead put up at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza. G.O.B. gave UNHCR access to the group in order to establish if any person had a fear of persecution if he or she would be returned to their country of origin.  Eight of those persons, who expressed desire to seek asylum in Belize, were then taken to Hope for Progress, a partner of UNHCR that provides support to foreign nationals while their immigration status is being worked out. But by Monday afternoon, these persons could not be found and had reportedly already crossed over into Mexico. From the onset, the Ministry of Immigration had expressed concerns about the recent increase in migrant flow to the U.S. through Central America. These foreigners were flagged last Tuesday because they had limited cash, no return flights and bogus hotel reservations. And now there are more questions than answers. How did these people get from Belmopan to Mexico? Is there a smuggling ring that facilitated their transportation? And was there a breakdown in protocols for these unregulated individuals? According to UNHCR, as asylum seekers, these persons did not commit a crime and as such, they were never detained, but just provided with shelter, food and support. Since they had freedom of movement, they did not escape from the facilities. In its responses, UNHCR says that only the state authorities have the prerogative to detain persons.

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