By Aaron Humes: The Government says it has returned 21 of 37 migrants who landed in Belize last week back to Panama after being found inadmissible to enter Belize legally.
In a statement, the Government said 19 Venezuelan nationals, a Moroccan and a Dominican Republic national were flown separately back to Panama. The Dominican, who had initiated the original disturbance on the COPA aircraft whilst it was on the apron at the Philip Goldson International Airport last week, was escorted back to Panama on TAG Airlines, via Guatemala. The others were flown back via the regular COPA flight on Saturday.
After interviews with the representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Belize, eight of the migrants have sought refugee status in Belize. At the request of the UNHCR, these persons have been handed over to Help for Progress. The Government says the refugee agency will meet all their expenses while their applications are being processed by the Refugees Department of the Ministry of Immigration, and has additionally undertaken to ensure that these persons do not disappear whilst their refugee applications are being processed.
Finally, according to the Government, several of the remaining persons, including children, tested positive for COVID-19. These persons remain detained at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel at the expense of COPA Airlines, and as soon as it is safe to do so they will be returned to Panama.