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Belize participates in regional workshop to advance migrant workers’ rights

GeneralBelize participates in regional workshop to advance migrant workers’ rights

Photo: Belizean delegation: (l-r) Aida Reyes, Senior Labour Officer; Valentino Shal, CEO in Labour Ministry; Rissela Dominguez-Patt, Labour Commissioner; and Lorine Pott, Port Commander, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration

by Kristen Ku

BELMOPAN, Thurs. July 6, 2023

Representatives of Belize’s Labour Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs participated in a two-day regional workshop hosted by the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on June 28 and 29 in Panama City. In attendance at the workshop, which focused on issues involving migrant workers, domestic and agricultural work, and circular migration, was a Belizean delegation that included Mr. Valentino Shal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour, and Local Government; Mrs. Rissela Dominguez-Patt, Labour Commissioner; Mrs. Aida Reyes, Senior Labour Officer; and Ms. Lorine Pott, Port Commander, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration.

In an interview with Amandala, CEO Shal highlighted the significance of Belize’s involvement in such discussions, stating, “Migrant workers, specifically looking at agriculture workers and domestic workers, move around in the Central American region. They are very important to the economies of countries in Central America, so we have to ensure that their rights are protected, that they meaningfully contribute to the economies and that they don’t suffer any abuse in the process of moving from one place to another for work.”

During the workshop, the Belizean delegates met with representatives from the governments of Costa Rica and Panama.

According to a press release issued by the Government of Belize, the groups exchanged information about their respective strategies and participated in discussions regarding best practices such as the Labor Migratory Traceability System, a binational agreement between Costa Rica and Panama.

Among the insights shared by the Belizean delegation was the digitalization of the process for migrant workers applying for work permits in Belize.

“They don’t need to come to our office or any office; they submit everything online and all of that information is processed, tracked, and is much more efficient than the manual system that used to be there. We’re also in the process of making this even more efficient, and revising the policy we have around workers’ permits,” Shal explained.

Shal further noted that they’re now looking at systems that exist in the region to see what can be applied here in Belize, to the benefit not only of the economy and industries, but of workers as well.

Shal explained that they are currently developing a Migrant Workers Program that is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the worker’s permit process and ensuring that industries in Belize which rely on migrant workers have sufficient labor when needed. The IOM is providing support for this initiative.

“We are being supported by the IOM with this initiative. At the moment we have not yet completed the process, but when we do, we will definitely make it public to make sure that people are aware of what the changes are, and what it is that people who would apply to the system would be required to do,” Shal said.

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