By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration intends to get a grip on the irregular flow of migrants from the South into and through Belize, intending to reach Mexico and the United States of America.
Minister Eamon Courtenay vowed that Belize will fight to stem the flow of irregular migrants by air, but added that while it is under consideration, it would not be a “knee-jerk reaction” to impose visa requirements for entry of nationals of particular countries.
In the case of Venezuela, Guatemala and as of Friday, Mexico, have and will impose such requirements, but as Courtenay pointed out, “Because of these hurdles persons are finding other ways to go north. We are in cooperation with our international partners who track these things and who look at flows, closely monitoring the flow of persons into and through Belize. As a result of this particular flight, we will have to have far more detailed discussions with the authorities in Panama. We will also have to have deeper discussions with the authorities from COPA.”
Those discussions have already begun in respect of concerns of flights carrying persons who have been insufficiently screened and the turnaround time (50 minutes between arrival and departure) which limits Immigration’s ability to process them and catch out irregular migrants in time to send them back right away, hence the arrangement with TAG Airlines.
As for any visa requirement, the Minister advised, “Well, first of all, it has to be driven by data and the director in fact just printed the data for the COPA flights. Remember the visa will apply not to coming from Panama, but to your nationality. So, we will have to look and stuff the nationality of persons who are coming and look at those who we can conclude are irregular.”
He further emphasized that there are thousands of migrants coming to Belize by air and so the Ministry has to be careful about singling anyone out, but they will be looking for those that drop off the radar on their arrival and end up in Mexico, Guatemala, and the U.S.