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Government announces amnesty for illegally resident Central American and Caribbean migrants

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Posted: Monday, December 6, 2021. 11:09 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, Senator Eamon Courtenay, formally announced a plan by the Government to offer an amnesty for Central American and Caribbean migrants illegally residing in Belize.

This, Courtenay announced at a meeting of the Senate today, would establish permanent residence for qualified persons, with a path to citizenship.

Courtenay quoted the World Migration Report, 2020, as saying Belize had seen the greatest increase in population due to migrancy, at near 25 percent between 2009 and 2019.

The most recent census reported about 14 percent of residents of Belize being born abroad, but there was no figure available for the number of undocumented migrants.

Belize had previously offered amnesties in 1984 and 1999 but a planned third in 2010 was not carried out.

About 4,100 persons are qualified for refugee status, but there are nearly ten to 15 times as many estimated migrants who have not regularized their status.

All of this brings many problems – gang members moving to Belize and continuing lives of crime; issues with status, as in the case of undocumented parents who have children born here; and mistreatment of workers.

Nonetheless, these persons do contribute to society and deserve a chance to continue to do so, Courtenay explained.

Permanent residence lasts for five years leading to potential citizenship.

The amnesty begins in April with registration to last four months and a six-month post-registration period. A plan for the amnesty program and budget will be presented to the National Assembly along with related legislation.

More on this later.

 

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