United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Belize, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b648.html [accessed 20 October 2017]
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At the end of 1997, some 4,000 refugees were in Belize, primarily Salvadorans and Guatemalans. The refugees were widely dispersed, living in 85 percent of the country's 200 rural villages. According to UNHCR, Belize is unique to the region in that it has established its own procedures for receiving, processing, and evaluating claims for refugee status. It enacted refugee legislation in 1991 to implement the UN Refugee Convention. An eligibility committee, on which UNHCR has a vote, makes decisions on granting refugee status. UNHCR also assists applicants who wish to appeal a decision. In 1997, the committee considered 158 applications for asylum but granted none. Previously, the majority of funds for refugee programs in Belize came from UNHCR, including half the salaries of most employees in the Department of Refugees. However, all such aid ended in April. During 1997, 91 refugees repatriated voluntarily from Belize. Now that the Central American wars are largely over, the Salvadoran and other refugees in Belize could lose their legal status in that country. However, many refugees hope to remain permanently in Belize, having established firm roots there and having children with Belizean citizenship. Although the official number of UNHCR-recognized refugees in Belize is more than 8,000, UNHCR suspects that the actual number of registered refugees remaining in Belize is about 4,000. The others have either acquired Belizean nationality after ten years of residence, returned to their countries of origin, or moved northward toward the United States. If a UNHCR census confirms this belief, the agency hopes to persuade Belize to facilitate a durable solution for the refugees by granting them Belizean nationality. Other solutions such as repatriation or resettlement appear unlikely.