UN welcomes extension of Amnesty program

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 5, 2022

The Amnesty 2022 program has been extended to February 2023, a Cabinet release on Thursday announced. A three-month extension was approved for the registration period of the Amnesty program, which is aimed at regularizing the status of thousands of migrants living in Belize. Estimates from 2021 suggest that approximately 40,000 – 60,000 irregular migrants are currently living in the country.

Following the announcement, three UN agencies working in Belize released a joint statement welcoming the government’s decision. The United Nations Children Fund, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency have supported the processing of over 6,668 applications so far, well over half the total number of applicants.

“To reach as many vulnerable people as possible, including those living in remote communities, the UN agencies set up mobile clinics to ensure services were available to those in remote areas, “ the release issued last Friday states.

The majority of consultations at the migrant hubs took place in the Cayo and Toledo District. Guatemalan nationals living in Belize submitted the most applications, so far, according to the 2022 final report. Also, among those who applied, the most frequently listed criterion which they met for qualification was the birth of at least one of their children in Belize before December 2021.

At the end of the process, those persons who have applied should be given permanent residency, and placed on a path to eventual citizenship, but poor turnout leading up to this week’s deadline on November 30 has caused the government to decide to extend the program.

The purpose of the Amnesty program is to address the issue of migrants living in Belize illegally. Recommended asylum seekers may also participate. Eight qualifying criteria are laid out by the Ministry of Immigration, which has established asylum centers that are in operation in various parts of the country.

The processing period for applications already submitted was to begin in earnest on Thursday, December 1, and end in May 2023, but will be pushed back until a later date.