By Marion Ali
People who are in Belize from other countries and who want to legitimize their living and working status here and those who may want to move to another country but have doubts as to what their possibilities are, now have the chance to get the information and assistance they need to do so.
The US Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Belize held the first two of a series of Mobile Migrant Hubs in Toledo last weekend to people who are looking for answers or assistance in regularizing their status.
Mobile Migrant Hubs are set up at strategic points for people to seek information or services, including help with the process to obtain foreign national documents for migrants for those who meet the requirements to be regularized in Belize. People who seek applications for work permits, birth certificates, and other documents can also visit the hubs when they are held in the district where they live.
US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Keith Gilges along with Head of the IOM Office in Belize Diana Locke, and area representative for Toledo West, and Minister of Rural Transformation Hon. Oscar Requeña answered questions that people had on their status in Belize or who were seeking assistance in this regard at one of the events held in San Antonio Village, Toledo on Sunday,
“We, at the U.S. Embassy and at the highest levels of the US government, believe that people should have a safe and dignified migration experience, whether you are a Belizean citizen returning to your community or you have migrated here from somewhere else and want to have legal status to work, to study, or have access to basic services,” Gilges told the gathering. He advised them that people are entitled to certain services, though some cases may be a bit more complexed than others.
The US itself has been faced with migration issues from human caravans (including children) from Central America who simply show up at their southern border. Last month, one of those children, a 12-year-old girl, hailed from Belize. She was eventually reunited with her father who lives in Texas. The US Embassy informed the Reporter on Tuesday that the Biden-Harris Administration and the US government are committed to addressing issues such as these, the flow of migrants to that country as well as the root causes of migration in Central America, through programs such as migrant hubs. Additionally, the US government also provides assistance to these countries “to change the socio-economic circumstances that lead to irregular migration.”
According to www:caribbeanmigration.org more Belizeans have left this country than those who have made it their home. The website reports that about 16% of Belizeans live abroad, while 15% of our population constitutes people who have come here.
Migrant hubs have been held so far in Bella Vista, Stann Creek, Valley of Peace, Cayo, and Benque Viejo Town. Those sessions assisted over 500 migrants in those communities. The US Embassy said this week that migrant hubs are part of the USAID and IOM’s five-year response on migration covering six Central American countries with a budget of $33.7 million.
Additional sessions will be held in Placencia on May 15th and 16th, in Corozal on June 12th, in Orange Walk on June 13th, in San Pedro on June 26th, in Belize City on July 17th, and in Dangriga on August 14th.
The International Organization for Migration was established in 1951 and is the leading inter-governmental organization that deals with migration. It works closely with partners within and outside of governments and has 173 member states, with nine more states holding observer status and offices in more than 100 countries. Its purpose is to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in finding practical solutions to migration problems, and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants or refugees who are displaced and in need of that help.
In related news, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is now offering asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants living in Belize access to the COVID-19 vaccine.