How to apply for asylum in Belize?

Belize is a beautiful coastal country in Central America that, although throughout its history it has been characterized by the migration of its inhabitants to Mexico and the United States, today it is home to more than 4,000 refugees. The reason for this is associated with the fact that the nation has been constantly growing, being able to provide employment opportunities and security to residents.

Hence, statistics show that over the last ten years foreigners from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras have found protection in Belize. Therefore, multiple Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have emerged to improve the quality of life of applicants throughout the process. Keep reading and discover the steps to follow to achieve it.

First considerations to apply for help in Belize

In principle, you should know that in Belize it is mandatory to apply for asylum within the first 14 days of entering the country, going to the Department of Refugees located in the city of Belmopan. This period is considered sufficient to start the process, so there are no exceptions in this regard.

On the other hand, the system processes both requests from people who enter regularly and irregularly. In other words, if you don’t have a passport, you can still announce the need to request international protection and start the steps that we will describe in the next section.

Asylum Application in Belize

As a last relevant aspect, keep in mind that the institution in charge of processing asylum applications is the Department of Refugees. It is a government agency that was designated for this purpose and, therefore, is in charge of managing the records and assigning the temporary legal status that allows the petitioners to reside in Belize, while it is decided whether or not the person opts for the protection.

Minors and Additional Considerations

If you are under the age of 18 and have no relatives in Belize, the Department of Refugees will assign you to a foster home through the Department of Human Services. However, it is not a guardian before the case in migrations.

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Regarding employment, in Belize there are no legal permits to work during the resolution of the asylum application. In this situation, it is best to seek advice from the Help for Progress (HFP) NGOs, since they are allies of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and have some plans to provide effective solutions during the wait.

Likewise, it should be noted that the people who can apply for asylum in Belize are those who flee their native country due to persecution and violence. Racial, religious, political and gender discrimination are the most common cases.

Procedure for making an asylum request in Belize

As we mentioned, once you are in Belize or one of its points of entry, you must go to the Department of Refugees and announce your desire to request international protection. From that moment, the steps are:

Step 1. Record

At the Department of Refugees, an officer will instruct you to complete the registration form, along with identification documents and evidence that justify the intention to request protection. If there are no such elements, then the reason for this must be explained. Then, you will be assigned to a reception center.

Procedure for making an asylum request in Belize

It should be noted that an identification document for the department can be:

  • Identification card or ID
  • Passport
  • Unique identity document
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Driver’s license

Step 2. Interview

After registration, you will be assigned an appointment with the eligibility officer of the Department of Refugees where you will be formally interviewed. This day you must explain the reasons that led you to flee your native country and submit the evidence that allows you to validate your statement, which you did not present in the previous step.

For a better understanding of the officer, it is recommended that you recount the events chronologically and in detail. At the end of the meeting, your fingerprints will be taken, a statement will be made and you will be given a provisional document that accredits you as an asylum seeker in Belize.

With this document you can move freely within the territory, for a maximum period of three months. Then, you must renew it for an equal period, as many times as necessary until a final decision is issued in the case. If a police officer stops you and the certificate is expired, he can stop you and charge you.

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Step 3. Evaluation

At the end of the interview, the officer in charge will send all the information and documents to the Ministry of the Interior for correct verification. Subsequently, a report will be issued, which will be sent to the Refugee Eligibility Committee for a technical evaluation, on which the final decision whether or not to grant protection status depends.

The results obtained will be communicated to the Ministry of Immigration, who will be in charge of making the final decision based on the committee’s recommendations. The analysis time is not established in any law of Belize, so it is variable depending on the magnitude of the case.

Rights and duties as an asylum seeker

Step 4. Application Decision

The response to the evaluation will be communicated in writing and the options are:

  • Positive answer. It means that the citizen will enjoy all the benefits as a resident of Belize. Work permit, medical assistance, education and identification documents are some of them.
  • Negative answer. Here the committee and the ministry in charge did not consider that the stated reasons are valid for assigning refugee status. However, there is the right to appeal through a letter sent to the Ministry of Immigration, within a maximum period of 14 days from the receipt of the notification of rejection.

Before the appeal process, the ministry will review the case and make a final decision. Now, if it continues to be negative, the citizen has the possibility of regularizing their immigration status before the Immigration Department, but if it is also denied, then the next step is deportation to the country of origin.

Rights and duties as an asylum seeker

As an asylum seeker in Belize, you are obliged to comply with the duties and enjoy the rights established by the State. It is crucial that you know the most outstanding points, so that you take full advantage of the benefits and, in addition, do not incur in any crime.

Receive temporary documentation to move freely within the country.Respect the Political Constitution of the State, the laws and regulations in force,
Enjoy all the rights and freedoms as the native citizens of Belize.Inform the Department of Refugees in Belmopan of any change in marital status, address or contact information.
Not to be returned or expelled to your country of origin, until the case is resolved.If you have a high socioeconomic level, you must contribute to the payment of accommodation expenses in the Reception Center.
To not receive any sanction for entering the country irregularly.Notify the Department of Refugees before making trips abroad, although it is best not to leave Belize until the case is defined.
Access public health, education, and justice services.Renew the assigned temporary documentation every three months and carry it with you at all times.

The efforts made by the Government of Belize on asylum issues allow applicants to better integrate into society and start a new life. Thanks to this, the natives of the country have returned and more and more are the people who resort to the system to request international protection. Therefore, if you live in persecution, violence and fear for your well-being and that of your family in your nation, then do not hesitate to travel to Belize and initiate the respective procedures.

Maya Martinez

Legal advisor for immigration processes. In addition to providing support in the legal procedures, I offer integral and informative support in relation to the obligations that are acquired when arriving to a new country.

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