The Mesoamerica Program begins implementation in Belize for the first time

9 February, 2018

Key stakeholders discussing the main strategy to develop a comprehensive Migration Policy for Belize. Left to right: Immigration Department; Director Refugees Department; Labour Department, Statistical Institute of Belize; MFA.


Belize. Belize is now part of the Mesoamerica Program, which is characterized by its comprehensive capacity-building component under a human rights approach for migration governance. During the past months, the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) carried out a needs assessment study to identify the main priorities of stakeholders in Belize and tailor activities to them.

Belize has one of the highest emigrants to population ratios reaching almost 18%, meaning an approximate of 66,000 migrants living mainly in the United States, and to a much lesser extent in Britain and Canada. On the other hand, Belize hosts approximately 45,000 migrants mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

To carry out this needs assessment study, 10 meetings were held with several institutions such as the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, the National Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the newly established Refugees Department. In addition, IOM met with civil society organizations such as Our Circle, The Child Development Foundation and Help for Progress.

During the meetings, IOM was able to present the Program activities and some of its most innovative solutions for supporting migration governance, for example the MigrantApp. IOM also received positive feedback for this and other activities being carried out under this Program. For example, stakeholders showed an interest in receiving comprehensive capacity-building programs that will help them gain the knowledge in a variety of topics such as interview techniques, trafficking in persons, migrant smuggling, psychosocial support, labor migration, among others. Institutions emphasized that these programs will build their capacities; place a human rights approach as a core value of every day functions of the government while promoting cooperation to improve migration governance, and contribute to the development of a National Migration Policy framework, with the support of IOM.

“The Mesoamerica Program will contribute to the improvement of migration governance in the country, responding to the needs of stakeholders, and putting the rights of migrants at the center of a national strategy that will support the development of a comprehensive migration policy”, explained Rene Chuc, National Coordinator of the Mesoamerica Program in Belize.

IOM also met with the Ministry of National Emergency Management seeking to promote one of the Program´s newest components- migration management in emergencies. Possible synergies between this ministry and IOM are being analyzed but certainly will be able to cooperate to introduce the MICIC (Migrants in Countries in Crisis) Guidelines within capacity-building programs to enable stakeholders to protect and assist migrants in Belize, and citizens living abroad, if affected by crisis.

The Mesoamerica Program will also provide the opportunity to stakeholders to participate in regional workshops organized under the framework of the Regional Conference on Migration.  This, in addition, to fostering participation of stakeholders in cross-border meetings with Mexico and Guatemala and develop joint initiatives across these borders.

The main objective of the Mesoamerica Program is to strengthen the capacities of state institutions and civil society organizations to foster the development and implementation of policies on safe, orderly and regular migration.