By Benjamin Flowers:The migration crisis in Central America has been an ongoing crisis that has worsened in recent years, and Belize has not been exempt from its effects according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Immigration Eamon Courtenay, who said this week some of the migrant workers who are in Belize looking for employment are becoming a problem.
Speaking at the opening of the Spanish Lookout Expo, on Thursday Courtenay stressed that the mass migration of people and issues connected to it such as human trafficking, worker exploitation, child labour, are becoming increasingly difficult to manage and called employers in key sectors to do their part in helping to solve those problems.
Courtenay said that there are employers in the agricultural sector who routinely employ immigrants who do not have proper documentation.
“I am appealing to employers in the agricultural sector to work with us to ensure that we do not get sanctions because of poor migration and labour practices,” Courtenay said.
He also said that there are instances where foreign workers are necessary, including a need for expertise, and an inability to fill a position after the post has been advertised. He notes that in those instances employment permits will be issued according to the legally outlined process; however, the government maintains that Belizeans should be offered employment before foreigners.
Courtenay said that the number of migrants coming through Belize is at an all-time high, noting that for the first quarter of 2022, 50 illegal immigrants were detained, and conceded that the number not caught is assuredly higher.
Courtenay said that GOB is committed to fighting human trafficking, and child labour as well as ensuring that all lawfully employed workers are given a decent wage.
The citrus and banana sectors in particular are reeling from the effects that COVID-19 has had on the ability of migrant workers to enter Belize. The Government of Belize, however, working in partnership with the private sector, has put in place workable protocols for legitimate migrant workers to enter Belize and be properly documented and accounted for.