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Jan 30, 2023

Amnesty Project Revisits Belize District as Application Period Winds Down

There are less than four weeks to go before the three-month extension period for the amnesty program expires and the folks at the helm of that project have been busy holding hubs in various parts of the country where the migrant population is high. This past weekend, hubs were held in Belize City and Ladyville and to find out how it was going, News Five’s Marion Ali dropped in on Saturday at The Hub on Chetumal Street where the event was held for that day. Here’s her report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

While the Belize District, is not geographically close to any of our borders, Belize City is the commercial centre of the country, and is home to a large migrant population seeking jobs and housing for their families. In fact, this is the second time that hubs have been held in the Old Capital since the program commenced on August second, 2022. Heading the project is Horace Guzman, a former senior immigration officer.


Horace Guzman

Horace Guzman, Manager, Amnesty Project

“We didn’t want to scare the applicants. Immigration is viewed as an enforcement agency, so we didn’t want to give the department that responsibility to deal with amnesty for the applicants, so I was given the task to manage the project, and I was given a staff, separate and apart to do the administrative work, accept applications, registering people, and that type of thing.”


The application process encompasses several components, including a medical and physical test, as well as passport-sized photos of the applicants. These components were part of Saturday’s hub. Dr. Amanda Vasquez was spearheading a team that took care of the medical aspect, and James Ruiz, of the Print Shop, headed the photography.


Amanda Vasquez

Dr. Amanda Vasquez, Lead Medical Officer, UNICEF/IOM Project

“My role – me and my nurse, actually – is really to do an overall physical exam. They do some blood work with the lab techs that are here, so we check for H.I.V., syphilis and tuberculosis and we help them fill out the physical medical examination form for immigration.”


James Ruiz

James Ruiz, Photographer, The Print Shop

“They can’t have glasses, long earrings, cause it’s still for immigration purposes. So they need to make sure that they’re tidied up. We take their photos and process it through our software and make sure that everything fits all the requirements, the size, the dimensions, we print it, cut it, then they can move on.”


Since the Amnesty Program was introduced last year, it has received support from the International Organization for Migration and UNICEF. According to Alison Parker, UNICEF’s Representative in Belize, many of the families that seek amnesty are those with children.


Alison Parker

Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative, Belize

“We have some of our Spanish-speaking staff here on the ground as well to ensure that people do understand the questions. For UNICEF, and the fundamental rights of a child. Every child, no matter their status, no matter where they’re coming from, has a right to access basic social services: health, education, access to protection, access to family and care. So for us, those who fall within the migrant population are an important category.”


Shirley Padilla is a migrant from Honduras who did not want to appear on camera, but shared her story with us.


Voice of: Shirley Padilla, Honduran Seeking Amnesty

“I come here in Belize when I was young but me and my husband were trying to fix our papers.”


Marion Ali

“You went back?”


Voice of: Shirley Padilla

“I gone when I was pregnant with my son and then couple year later I come back into Belize back. And it has more opportunities for my kids now that they come here and live a better life.”


When the application period ends, the forms submitted will be vetted and cross-checked with the Special Branch of the Belize Police Department to ensure that the applicants are law-abiding persons.

Horace Guzman

“No application, none, will be approved without the Special Branch vetting report. The police Special Branch report is a critical aspect in this whole process.

 Just like the regular permanent residency process, all applicants must go through the security process as well.”


Hubs will be held in San Pedro next weekend and in Punta Gorda the following weekend and Guzman urges those who need to live and work in Belize legally to take advantage of this opportunity.


Horace Guzman

“Get into the process, get your permanent residency card and regularize yourself. This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”


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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