Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019. 5:18 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: As of mid-2019, Belize’s population stands at approximately 392,000. By the count of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a slightly smaller figure – 387,000 – refugees and asylum seekers are coming from elsewhere in northern Central America to seek new lives. A further 97,000 Nicaraguans have been displaced by persecution, four-fifths of which are hosted in neighboring Costa Rica.
Belize, Mexico and all of Central America save Nicaragua have agreed to work together to address and prevent forced displacement in their region, under the updated Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (known as MIRPS after its acronym in Spanish), which is a regional version of the Global Refugee Compact. The MIRPS brings together Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama to work together as countries of origin, transit and asylum to address pressing issues.
Over 53,000 new asylum applications were submitted worldwide by citizens of countries in northern Central America during 2019, an 86% increase on the same period in 2018.
The countries met in Mexico City for the second time since adoption of the MIRPS in 2017.
The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements lauded MIRPS as a leading example of implementing the Compact through their national action plans and linked by regional approaches.
The participating countries made a commitment to promote coordinated responses over the short, medium and long term. This includes investing substantially in addressing and mitigating the humanitarian consequences of internal displacement, which has so far forced some 320,000 Hondurans and Salvadorans to abandon their homes. There is also a focus on increasing the protection and help for displaced people, with solutions such as internal relocation or resettlement.
The declaration, which builds on commitments made by MIRPS members in 2017, also calls on the countries to adopt laws that promote the access of refugees and asylum seekers to the labor market and enable their integration in local communities.
MIRPS member countries will host a solidarity event on December 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of the 17-18 December Global Refugee Forum, highlighting the urgent need for international support to respond to the complex situation of forced displacement across Central America and Mexico.
In Belize, some 6,000-plus “persons of concern,” mainly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala by UNHCR’s count, are resident in such communities as Valley of Peace, Cayo; Bella Vista, on the Stann Creek-Toledo border; and the outskirt communities surrounding the capital, Belmopan, such as Riviera, San Martin, and Maya Mopan.
Of these, more than 3,600 have sought asylum and have registered with the Refugees Department of the Department of Immigration and Nationality; and 596 have been recommended with the Refugee Eligibility Committee as of June. However, just 28 persons are recognized as refugees, and 15 outstanding applications have been accepted by the Committee and approved by the Minister.
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