BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — Belize Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, says he has not seen “any evidence which suggests that our people are involved in human trafficking” after the United States announced that it was removing the country from the temporary work visa programme.
Washington said that nationals from Belize, Haiti and Samoa would no longer be able to acquire the H-Two-A and H-Two-B non-immigrant work visas that required for people recruited by US companies for agricultural work and seasonal work in places like hotels.
Belize was removed from the list because it is reported that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country has not done enough to curb human trafficking. In 2016, Belize was placed in Tier Three because the State Department felt that the country did not meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. The 2017 report has not yet been released.
Elrington said while he is not in possession of any official report from Washington regarding the decision to bar nationals from the agricultural seasonal programme, he was aware of reference being made to the human trafficking situation here.
“I have not seen anything official, but I do know that the United States has long expressed concern about the issue of human trafficking in Belize and that our attorney general has been working assiduously to try to see how we could make sure that we reduce the incidences of that kind of thing and try to allay the fears and concerns of the United States about Belize’s involvement in it.
“I have not seen any evidence which suggests that our people are involved in human trafficking. I have not seen any evidence but I know that the United States has been complaining bitterly about it for some time and I do know that efforts are being made by our officials,’ the foreign minister said.
He said that the police, as well as at the attorney general and the judiciary levels, efforts are being made to deal with the situation.
“From time to time they have received trainings in how to deal with this issue, but I have not seen anything officially sent to me.”
On Thursday, the US Embassy here issued a statement outlining the strident measure to not grant visas to Belizean temporary workers for the rest of this year.
It said that the designation takes into account a country’s cooperation with issuing travel documents for the citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country who are subject to a final order of removals along with other factors.
“DHS may receive a recommendation from the Department of State or a written request from the Government of Belize or an employer that would like to hire nationals of Belize in H-2A status, or another interested party or parties,” the embassy noted.
In 2016, 299 H-2 visas were processed for Belize.