Human rights

Human Rights Commission responds to MOFA

BELIZE CITY, Mon. April 11, 2022 – The Belize Human Rights Commission (HRCB) issued a press release last week regarding recent comments by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration regarding the influx of irregular Cuban migrants into the country. In the statement, the Commission set out its position on the matter, stating that it remained committed to ensuring that the rights of all people, migrants and refugees included, are upheld under the law and noting that “there is no there is nothing illegal or illegal about anyone entering Belize without proper papers and seeking asylum.”

Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs, via a press release, said migrants, especially those from Cuba, were exploiting the country’s refugee program in order to use Belize as a transit point to reach the US border. -Mexican. This communiqué was issued shortly after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Eamon Courtenay, had told a Senate meeting that the ministry would do everything in its power to reduce the flow of irregular migrants into Belize, adding that the country currently had a “serious migration problem”.

Hon. Courtenay’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration came as a group of nine Cuban nationals, including two minors, narrowly escaped repatriation. After being held in Belize Central Jail for approximately 50 days, these individuals were to be placed on a flight back to Cuba. The Commission on Human Rights, however, had intervened, taking a habeas corpus and demanding that the group be given a fair trial in court before any action was taken against them.

A similar scenario occurred after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of Cubans who had been detained after being denied the chance to apply for asylum. Shortly after, it was revealed that these people had left the country without informing any authority. But the Human Rights Commission says that in this case the only law these people broke was leaving in violation of immigration laws which require people to leave through specified exit points.

“They were free to go… We all have freedom of movement and no restrictions were imposed on them. Also, in our country, we have unmanned and uncontrolled borders,” the Commission said on the matter.

In its statement, the Commission further added that irregular migrants should not be charged with illegal entry or sent to jail with the general prison population – which includes genuine convicted criminals – pending transport out of the country.

In an interview this week, Home Secretary Hon. Local journalists asked Kareem Musa if the situation involving Cuban nationals could “pose a threat” to the country. Hon. Musa, however, said it was a question he would have to address to the Immigration Department before he could give an answer.

ALMOND contacted the Foreign Office for comment on the HRCB statement, but received no response.