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Jul 22, 2022

One Tenth of Migrants Have Sought Assistance for Amnesty

As August second draws closer for Belize’s Amnesty Program to kick in, the hubs that the International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.) has been holding across the country over the last several months to educate interested immigrants have now ended. But if you still have interests but are concerned about certain aspects of the application process, you still have one last window of opportunity. News Five’s Marion Ali has the latest on the topic in this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The decision to conduct an Amnesty Program at this time followed consultation with a cross-section of Belize’s society, according to Project Manager, Horace Guzman.


Horace Guzman

Horace Guzman, Project Manager, Belize Amnesty Program

“It started with a series of consultations that we had across the country. We consulted with the N.G.O. community, civil society organizations, the embassies, we consulted with the JP Association, we did consultation with the Human Rights Commission of Belize, UNHCR, Association of Village Councils, Association of Village Councils, Mayors’ Association, so the consultation was across the board – I.O.M., UNICEF, PAHO, and members of the Opposition.”


Of the estimated forty thousand irregular migrants that are living in Belize, only about ten percent have sought assistance to seek asylum. Head of the International Organization for Migration office in Belize, Diana Locke, shared that there is some hesitation among migrants in some quarters.


Diana Locke

Diana Locke, Head, I.O.M., Cayo

“The experience we had in Toledo and also in Cayo, we noticed that persons were not bringing their entire family out to be recorded in the amnesty. That was for two reasons, one: they didn’t feel they had the money at this point in time to do the medical test and the translations and stuff for each member of the family that would have been required. And even more importantly, they were making choices as to which members of the family they would apply for because at the end of the program, they did not have the money to cover everyone.”


But the shortage of money should not be the reason to not apply, Locke opined. She advised that appointments can be made now online for the amnesty program and from August second to November thirtieth, registration centers will be open to process your applications.


Diana Locke

“We don’t want to let that be a hindrance. We really are trying to encourage persons to come in and get themselves recorded. It’s still best to have an approval and I’m sure that there would be a time period given by government, which you must come in, and perhaps then they would be able to source assistance to get the monies to pay for the amnesty. So that’s our biggest concern at this point in time, that people are not coming in.”



Those who are granted asylum are given permanent residency status, as explained by the Director of the Immigration’s Nationality and Passport Department, Mario Arzu.


Mario Arzu

Mario Arzu, Director, Nationality & Passport Department

“We must make this abundantly clear that what we are providing for the qualified applicants is a permit to reside permanently in Belize. It’s not citizenship. We have to make that distinction because that’s one of the misconceptions that Belizeans have out there – that we’re giving away citizenship to people. That’s not the truth. The second thing that we must put out there is that these are individuals who would have been residing in Belize over an extended period of time.”


I.O.M. Head Officer, Diana Locke says migrants interested in seeking amnesty could contact their alcaldes, village councils or churches to help them with the information they need in order to apply. There are also four centers in Bella Vista, Stann Creek at the Humana office, the Red Cross building in San Ignacio, the Child Development Foundation and the Y.W.C.A. in Belize City where migrants can go to get information or advice on how to proceed with their amnesty application. Locke encourages all migrants whose nationality status is still not regularized to take advantage of this absolute last opportunity. There are eight categories under which migrants could apply and qualify for amnesty. The consequences one faces if they are caught after the program closes could be severe, Locke advised.


Diana Locke

“Definitely the government has expressed to us and I think the Ministry has informed recently that enforcement activities will resume once the amnesty is over. As the Minister recently said, once this is over they will begin enforcement and we really wouldn’t want situations to occur where family members could be split. Once the amnesty is over in late this year and early next year, we could see an increase in the number of persons that will need to and will want to go back home. It would be easier to do this voluntarily than to be forcibly repatriated.”


People who would need to consider repatriation are those who would not qualify under any of the eight categories under the amnesty program and those persons who refuse to apply and are caught living in Belize in an irregular status after the amnesty program closes at the end of November. Marion Ali for News Five.


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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