Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Eamon Courtenay says that, in addition to dealing with an uptick in Cuban migrants, the Government will be cracking down on the smuggling of Haitian nationals through the country.
By Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 15, 2022
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Immigration, Hon. Eamon Courtenay has said that the government will soon be cracking down on the smuggling of Haitians through the country by preventing the landing of chartered flights from the Caribbean nation.
At a press conference held on Wednesday, at which both the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño spoke to the media, Hon. Courtenay revealed that over the next six weeks, the government will be declining all requests for chartered flights from Haiti to land in Belize.
“We have taken a decision this week, and I informed Cabinet yesterday, that we have requests over the next six weeks for a number of flights to come—charter, Haiti-Belize—in collaboration with Civil Aviation. We are not going to allow them to land, and if we have to reverse the provision of Haitians coming to Belize without a visa, we are going to do so,” he said.
About a year ago, Minister Courtenay sought the approval of Cabinet for Haitians to be allowed visa-free entry to Belize, because, as he noted, that is a requirement under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. According to the Minister, however, since then there has been a significant number of Haitians arriving in the country on a one-way ticket with no hotel reservation but claiming that they are tourists. This, combined with a recent Yahoo News article that revealed charter flights are being used to smuggle Haitians out of their country, is what spurred the Minister’s decision.
The article, titled “Charter business thrives as US-expelled Haitians flee Haiti”, explains how Haitian influencers have been advertising businesses that offer charter flights to South America for persons who were previously expelled from the US and are seeking to return. Those businesses, says the National Coordinator of Immigrants in Chile, have been exploiting desperate Haitians for profit.
“Many of the customers are Haitians who had been living in Chile and Brazil before they made their way to the Texas border in September, only to be expelled by the Biden administration and prevented from seeking asylum. They are using the charter flights to flee Haiti again and return to South America … Some, clearly, plan to make another try to enter the United States,” states an excerpt of the article.
According to Minister Courtenay, the Ministry of Immigration seeks to protect migrants from being abused and trafficked by smugglers. According to him, the Ministry of Immigration is currently trying to “clean up a very difficult situation.”
A cabinet brief released late this evening states,” The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration informed Cabinet of the increase in requests for permits to allow charter flights from Haiti to Belize with Haitians. The ministry has carefully assessed these applications and is satisfied that they are not genuine tourist flights. Accordingly, in consultation with the Ministry of Blue Economy & Civil Aviation, permission to land will not be granted. The minister is considering revoking visa-free travel to Belize for Haitians. ”