In 1996, there were some 8,700 documented refugees in Belize, including 5,900 Salvadorans, 2,150 Guatemalans, and 650 persons from other countries. In addition, Belize hosted 28,500 undocumented persons from neighboring Central American countries who were living in a refugee-like situation. Together, these two groups comprised 14 percent of Belize's total population. The refugees were widely dispersed throughout the country, with particular concentrations in three central districts: Belize, Cayo, and Stann Creek. They could not own or lease land in most places and had limited access to the labor market, so were socially and economically vulnerable. Between January and October 1996, 126 refugees repatriated voluntarily from Belize. Many refugee families have established firm roots in Belize, have children with Belizean citizenship, and hope to remain permanently in Belize.

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