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Apr 13, 2023

PM Briceño Responds to Shyne on CARICOM Nationals

Prime Minister John Briceño

Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow has issued a statement denouncing the Briceño administration’s decision to take stricter measures against Haitian and Jamaican nationals traveling to Belize.  That decision comes amid an increase in the number of persons arriving from those countries, and subsequently crossing over into Mexico illegally en route to North America.  The Leader of the Opposition cites a 2013 judgment by the Caribbean Court of Justice in respect of the free movement of CARICOM nationals across the region.  Nonetheless, Prime Minister Briceño responded to Barrow’s statement in an interview with the media this morning.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“I think the Leader of the Opposition is suffering from attention deficit disorder, just wants attention because he knows what is happening. We do not take it lightly. Actually it was his father being the prime minister then that required Haitians to get a visa to come into Belize contrary to the Treaty of Chaguaramas. I do not recall the now Leader of the Opposition back then calling out the UDP saying that you are moving contrary to the Treaty of Chaguaramas. It was our government that said we need to implement the Treaty of Chaguaramas and remove the visa. But of late, we’ve been seeing a trend where a lot of Haitians – and rightly so they are trying to get out of a really bad situation in Haiti – finding ways how to get to the United States. And now they realize that once you get to Belize, because we have a land border with Mexico, you have people that smuggle them into Mexico and take them on to United States. The Minister of Immigration has even pointed out that there are websites in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic and in Haiti where they are advertising, come to us, we will get you to Belize and from Belize, we will get you to the United States. That’s human trafficking. The United States Government has already been looking on us and calling our attention and saying listen, we are seeing now the evidence of human trafficking through your country and what it is that you are going to do. So it’s damn if you do, damn if you don’t.  So we had no other option than to implement the visa requirement for Haitian nationals.  For Jamaicans we are seeing the same trend, but it is not as pronounced as the Haitian nationals. So what we have said that it is something that we are considering. We have not done it as yet, but what we’ve agreed to, the Minister of Immigration has said that he will be speaking with the Ministry of Tourism in Belize and also his counterpart, the Foreign Minister of Jamaica and the Minister of Immigration to see how best we could address this.  We welcome Jamaicans to come to Belize. As I’ve said earlier, Jamaica has been a close ally of Belize from the start of the nationalist movement, we’ve had this history together; we work together. Prime Minister Holness and myself, we are personal friends – we call one another and it is not something that we are just going to do on a whim. It is something that we are trying to find how best to address the issue of Jamaicans that come to Belize for them to be able to go to the United States.  So that decision has not been made. It is a decision that we are looking at. We are discussing it with the Ministry of Tourism, Foreign Minister and Minister of Immigration has been in contact with his counterparts in Jamaica. So I think the Leader of the Opposition is just calling for attention without really thinking it through.”

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