We had no choice, says Belize PM
... as CARICOM nation imposes travel requirements for J’cans amid suspected smuggling ring
John Briceño, the prime minister of Belize, says his government had no choice but to adjust immigration and travel policies for Jamaicans and Haitians, amid a suspected ongoing human-smuggling ring in the region. The CARICOM member state, situated...
John Briceño, the prime minister of Belize, says his government had no choice but to adjust immigration and travel policies for Jamaicans and Haitians, amid a suspected ongoing human-smuggling ring in the region.
The CARICOM member state, situated in Central America, late last month announced that it would impose visa restrictions for Haitians and a requirement that Jamaicans provide evidence of fully paid non-refundable hotel reservations prior to boarding flights to Belize.
Belize said that its hotel industry was being negatively impacted by especially Jamaicans who book stays but spend fewer than 24 hours in the country as part of a ruse to get to the southern border of the United States.
“We have done this reluctantly,” Briceño told The Gleaner late Tuesday.
“We consider Jamaica a close friend and ally. Historically, we have always supported each other, but we had no choice. We are still open to finding ways how we can make this work,” he added.
Mostly males travelled from Jamaica over the last 14 months to Belize, records from the country’s immigration department show.
Of the 1,673 Jamaicans who visited Belize during that period via routes outside of the United States, 1,072 were males. Some 895 of the total Jamaicans who travelled to the country in the last 14 months are unaccounted for.
For Haitians, 2,095 travelled to Belize over that same period, while only 121 are on record of leaving the country.
“The government of Belize, through the Immigration Department, urges our CARICOM brothers and sisters – particularly Haitians and Jamaicans – to seek the safe, orderly and regular path to migration, as set out in Global Compact for Migration. Their lives are not worth the risks taken to reach the US-Mexico border,” Immigration Director Debra Baptist-Estrada said.
Caribbean nationals utilise the unofficial border crossing along the Rio Hondo River between Belize and Mexico, namely Santa Cruz, Blue Creek, Douglas, Patchakan and San Victor villages, after arriving from Panama and El Salvador.
Jamaica’s foreign affairs minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, confirmed on Tuesday that she had been made aware of the concern and “took prompt action” to contact her Belizean counterpart, Eamon Courtenay.
She said, after discussing the issue, they agreed to remain in contact as they continue to consult on the matter.