By Benjamin Flowers: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Immigration, Eamon Courtenay, says that the Governments of Belize and Cuba have scheduled bilateral talks for the middle of this month to discuss the flow of Cuban immigrants coming to Belize.
Courtenay explained that the Ministry has been collecting and analyzing data, which shows that among the many migrant populations either coming to Belize in transit to the United States or coming to stay seeking a better life, Cubans are among the most concerning.
Courtenay went on to say that at a recent meeting of the Immigration Department, the issue was discussed at length and recommendations were made which will form a paper to be taken to Cabinet later this month.
“The long and short of it is that we have noted a significant increase of illegal and irregular migrants coming through Belize, Cubans being a significant increase, so we are going to be talking to our colleagues, the Cuban government as well as regionally and we will have to put some measure in place in Belize to address the issue,” Courtenay said.
He noted that getting Cuban immigrants back to their home country poses a significant challenge to immigration authorities because there are no direct flights to Cuba, and some Cubans caused trouble on a Copa Airlines flight during the last deportation exercise, causing the airline to say that it will no longer accept this type of passenger.
Courtenay said that the government will be reaching out to the US for assistance and inclusion in the regional migration equation. He added that he expects greater cooperation from the US in the future because keeping the immigrants from coming through Belize serves the interests of the US as well.
In April, 16 Cubans were caught trying to sneak through Belize in transit to the US. In September Cubans trying to sail to the US from Honduras got shipwrecked and ended up floating into Belizean waters.