By Aaron Humes: The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has reached an agreement with Belize’s Department of Youth Services to work together to support young refugees and Belizean youth, including them in society.
Areas of collaboration include community-based interventions that spark dialogue between young refugees and their communities and improving the access to services to prevent or respond to sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and abuse. The joint work plan also seeks to promote awareness and visibility of the rights of youth including those affected by forced displacement.
Minister of Youth Kevin Bernard said he looked forward to the expanded services to be provided to all youth and especially refugees and asylum seekers. Of the more than five thousand known asylum seekers and refugees that have come to Belize seeking safe haven and protection, a third are between the ages of 13 and 29. They hail primarily from Central America – El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. About 2,400 refugees and asylum seekers are formally registered with UNHCR.
Said deputy representative of the regional office of UNHCR Renee Cuijpers, “Youth are the beacons of hope, especially in challenging times like these… By partnering with the Department of Youth Services, we can enable safe and inclusive environments for refugees and local to develop their skills and contribute to Belize together.”