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May 20, 2022

Not Everyone Will Satisfy Conditions of Amnesty Program

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, Eamon Courtenay also spoke about the amnesty program, which is tentatively set to begin in July. It is estimated that over forty thousand persons, who have made Belize their home, have irregular immigration status in the country. The amnesty program is a government initiative to regularize their status. But not all may satisfy the conditions put in place and be able to receive permanent residency. Today, Minister Courtenay told News Five that those who are in the country illegally will be dealt with by the law. Meanwhile, those who will successfully gain permanent residency would have to apply five years later for nationality.


Senator Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Immigration

“We have identified places where people can go and apply. We are going through all the processes in terms of the online applications, in terms of the procedures, the documents, the education campaign that has to be undertaken, the training of people who have been hired to process the applications. I think by now they have procured or done the bids for equipment and computers, etc that needs to be done and so those would be supplied shortly and hopefully by July first we will be ready to go. We are dealing with people who have made Belize their home. But they are here illegally. We cannot go house to house looking for people and seeing if you are legal or illegal so what we have decided to do is to grant an amnesty to allow everybody a chance who has been here and who satisfy the criteria to come in and apply. You may be refused; you may think you qualify, but if you are refused, you will be dealt with according to the law. If you qualify, you get permanent residence. It is not nationality; it regularizes your status. And if after five years you satisfy the procedure, then you can apply for nationality.  So let me just remove the possibility any at all that this is being done for any political purpose. These people, if they are granted permanent residence status, they cannot vote in the next general elections. So let’s understand that. This is done in order to try to bring people into the formal economy, try to regularize their status so that we know who is here illegally so that we know who are using our public sector – hospitals, education, etc – so that we can manage that and we can have accurate data. Once these people are brought into the formal sector, they contribute far more to the economy. They no longer need to hide, they no longer need to accept sub-human wages, they no longer need to work in conditions that are just absolutely inhuman. They have a right because they are permanent residents and they are treated humanely. So for Belize, we have to recognize that a problem exits of tens of thousands of people who are here illegally, we need to regularize them and then we draw a line. Anybody after that, we have to be tough on them. So that is the plan.”

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