No detention centre mapping data


Belize Immigration Detention

Belize’s immigration detention practices contrast with the policies of neighbouring countries in key ways. In particular, the country provides criminal sanctions for immigration-related infractions and appears to be the only nation in Central America that does not have a dedicated administrative immigration detention facility.

Quick Facts


International migrants (2015): 53,900
New asylum applications (2016): 2,016

Profile Updated: January 2016

Belize Immigration Detention Profile

Belize hosts migrants and asylum seekers from various neighbouring Central American countries, most of whom seek to reach the United States.[1] The country’s small population of immigration detainees mainly come from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. However, there have been cases of foreign nationals from as far away as Somalia, Bangladesh, and India being arrested and placed in immigration detention.

Belize’s immigration detention practices contrast with the policies of neighbouring countries in key ways.[2] In particular, the country provides criminal sanctions for immigration-related infractions and appears to be the only nation in Central America that does not have a dedicated administrative immigration detention facility.

Detention Policy

Belize has several laws that are relevant to the treatment of foreign nationals, including the Refugee Act, the Immigration Act, and the Aliens Act.[3]

Belize criminalizes various status-related infractions. Under the 2010 Immigration Act, any person who enters Belize other than at an approved entry point, disembarks without the consent of an immigration officer, or fails to present him or herself to an immigration officer upon arrival can be charged with an offence (article 24). In this way, Belize’s Immigration Act resembles that of Malta, with which Belize shares British colonial heritage. In addition, the Belize Immigration Act and Malta’s 1970 Immigration Act employ the concept of “prohibited immigrant.” In contrast, Panama decriminalized status-related violations in 2008 when it overhauled its immigration legislation. 

The law provides numerous migration and non-migration-related grounds for classifying a person as a “prohibited immigrant,” including lack of sufficient means of subsistence, having a mental disability or communicable disease, being a stowaway, being a prostitute or homosexual, having a previous criminal conviction, non-compliance with the conditions of a permit, revocation or expiry of a permit, or entering, leaving, or remaining in the country in contravention of a provision of the Immigration Act (articles 5(1), 9(4), 13(3)).

Immigration officers can request a court order for the removal of a prohibited immigrant and detain the person until removal is possible (Immigration Act article 30). Any person who is considered “prohibited” and who disembarks without previously obtaining a permit can be charged with an offence (article 34(2)). This offence is punishable by a fine of up to 5,000 Belize dollars (roughly 2,500 USD) and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

Article 28 stipulates that anyone detained, restricted, or arrested as a prohibited immigrant must be informed of the grounds for their detention and must be provided with the right to appeal to a summary jurisdiction court. A notice of appeal must be handed to the court and immigration officer within seven days of the appeal being made (Immigration Act, article 28(3)-(4)).

Immigration detention is also set forth in the 2000 Aliens Act. Articles 3(1)-(2) provide for the arrest and expulsion of non-citizens who can be detained in custody prior to their deportation “in such manner and place as the Minister shall direct.” If they have not been deported from Belize within one month they should be released from custody as soon as is possible.

Appeals must be made in writing to the Supreme Court within three days of receipt of an expulsion order. Every person detained in custody under an expulsion order must be given the opportunity to appeal and steps to enforce the expulsion order must be suspended once intention to appeal has been made (Aliens Act, article 9 (a)-(d)).

In practice, apprehended migrants are reportedly held in administrative detention for 3-6 months if they cannot pay the fine. However, “extraregional” migrants tend to be detained for longer periods, often because of complications related to carrying our deportation flights to countries of origin.[4]

In 2014 the UN Committee on Migrant Workers addressed the criminalization and detention of migrant workers in Belize. The Committee was particularly concerned about the treatment of undocumented migrants as criminal offenders. It advised Belize that irregular entrance into a country and expiration of a permit should be administrative infractions and not criminal offences. It urged the country to remove from its legislation provisions that make irregular immigration status a criminal offence, take measures to ensure that the administrative detention of migrant workers and members of their families on the basis of their migration status be used only as an exceptional measure and only for the shortest time possible, and adopt and employ alternative measures to detention.[5]

Detention Infrastructure

Belize is the only Central American country that does not have a dedicated immigration detention facility. Rather, migrants are detained in Her Majesty' s Prison (the Belize Central Prison), which is located in Hattieville, some 25 kilometres outside the capital, Belize City. Article 30(4) of the Immigration Act provides, “An immigrant ordered to be removed may be placed on board a suitable vessel by any police officer or immigration officer, and may be lawfully detained in custody on board so long as the vessel is within the territorial waters of Belize.” Article 37 states that a “person detained in custody under this Act but not serving a sentence of imprisonment may be so detained either in Her Majesty’s prison or in any place appointed for the purpose by the minister, but if detained in Her Majesty’s prison he shall be treated as a person awaiting trial.”

The Kolbe Foundation, a Christian NGO, has operated the prison for many years. In June 2015, allegations arose about poor administration at the facility, bribes, and ill-treatment of detainees. One former prisoner claimed that these abuses appeared to be possible because of the autonomy that the Kolbe Foundation allegedly has with respect to relevant government agencies and oversight.[6]

Previously, in 2013, four former employees of the Kolbe Foundation denounced human rights abuses at the prison and were subsequently the target of a defamation lawsuit filed by the Kolbe Foundation.[7]

Some non-governmental sources report that immigration detainees are held in a separate section of the central prison and that women and men are segregated.[8] On the other hand, according to information reported by the International Detention Coalition, immigration detainees are confined in the pre-trial section of the prison.[9] In 2014, the Committee on Migrant Workers expressed "particular concern" about “the detention, including indefinite detention, of migrant workers along with convicts under inhumane conditions and without basic assistance, including the possibility of seeking and establishing contact with lawyers and family relatives.” The UN treaty body urged Belize to ensure that migrant workers and members of their families who are in detention have access to legal aid and consular services and are kept in humane conditions.[10]

Reports indicate that vulnerable groups like asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and migrant children are not placed in immigration detention. Children are supposed to be placed in shelters managed by the Ministry of Human Development (Ministerio de Desarrollo Humano) while authorities organize removal procedures. Accompanied children are separated from their parents. While parents are detained in the Belize Central Prison, minors are kept in shelters.[11] However, according to the Committee on Migrant Workers, children under 18 years of age, including unaccompanied minors, have been placed in pre-deportation detention for committing infractions listed under the Immigration Act. The Committee recommended that Belize should never place children in detention on the basis of their or their parents’ immigration status, urged the country to cease the detention and expulsion of migrant children on the basis of their migration status, and underscored that the best interest of the child and the principle of non-discrimination are primary considerations.[12]

There do not appear to be any official statistics available concerning immigration detention in Belize, however one civil society source told the GDP that the number of detainees appears to have decreased in recent years.[13] According to official statistics, some 170 foreign prisoners were incarcerated as of 9 January 2015 in the Belize Central Prison.[14] The reasons for their incarceration were not reported.

 

 

[1] International Organization for Migration, Website: “Migration Trends: Belize,“ Undated, http://costarica.iom.int/en/belize/migration_trends_in_the_mission/.

[2] Undisclosed source (NGO), Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), November 2015.

[4] Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina y África and Médicos Sin Fronteras, Informacion comparada sobre detencion de solicitantes de asilo en Centroamerica y Caribe, 2007, http://www.gloobal.net/iepala/gloobal/fichas/ficha.php?entidad=Textos&id=4303&opcion=documento#ficha_gloobal; and Undisclosed source (NGO), Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), November 2015.

[5] Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Concluding observations on Belize in the absence of a report (CMW/C/BLZ/CO/1), 26 September 2014.

[6] Channel 7 Daily News, “Two Faces of Belize Central Prison,” 5 June 2015. http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=32670.

[7] Adele Ramos, “Belize Central Prison Coalition faces legal hurdles,” Amandala, 22 November 2013, http://amandala.com.bz/news/belize-central-prison-coalition-faces-legal-hurdles/.

[8] Undisclosed source (NGO), Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), November 2015.

[9] International Detention Coalition (IDC), INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS, October 2014.

[10] Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Concluding observations on Belize in the absence of a report (CMW/C/BLZ/CO/1), 26 September 2014.

[11] Undisclosed source (NGO), Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), November 2015.

[12] Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Concluding observations on Belize in the absence of a report (CMW/C/BLZ/CO/1), 26 September 2014.

[13] Undisclosed source (NGO), Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), November 2015.

[14] Institute for Criminal Policy Research/World Prison Brief, Website: “Belize,” http://www.prisonstudies.org/country/belize.

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



0

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2015

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres

2015

  • Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of transit facilities

2015

  • Number of transit facilities
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of ad hoc facilities

2015

  • Number of ad hoc facilities
NumberObservation Date
02015


1,443

Criminal prison population

2015

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
1,4432015
1,6502013
1,5622012
1,4202010
1,3462007
1,1492004
9032001
1,0431998
6301995
6171992


11.1

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2015

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
11.12015
8.82012


410

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2015

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
4102015
4952013
4762012
4602010
4712007
4342004
3692001
4641998
3041995
3161992



359,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
359,0002015
300,0002012


53,900

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
53,9002015
50,9002013


15

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
152015
15.32013


0

Refugees

2016

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
02016
352015
102014


0.03

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
0.032014
0.092012


2,016

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
2,0162016
742014
582012


100

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
1002014


0

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
02016
02014

International Law Expand all

Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  14/16
International treaty reservations Show sources
NameReservation YearObservation Date
ICCPR Article 1419961996
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 19992002
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
1/8
1/8
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation Year
Committee on Migrant Workers§19. The Committee urges the State party to: (a) Repeal all discriminatory provisions regarding entry of migrant workers into the State party contained in section 5 (1) of Chapter 156 of the Immigration Act (2000); (b) Bring the laws and practice regarding entry of migrant workers and members of their families in line with article 8, paragraph 1, of the Convention, so as to ensure that permission for a migrant worker to enter the State party is not restricted, unless deemed necessary for the protection of national security, public order, health or morals, in accordance with the rights set forth in the Convention; (c) Ensure the right to privacy of all migrant workers and members of their families wishing to enter the country, in accordance with article 14 of the Convention; (d) Ensure that no medical examination is required on the basis of discriminatory grounds, including non-risk health or medical conditions, physical or psychosocial disability, real or perceived HIV/AIDS status or other communicable disease, sex work or sexual orientation or gender identity; (e) Remove all restrictions on the rights of children of migrant workers based on the particular status or condition of their parents. §27. The Committee recalls that irregular entrance into a country or expiration of authorization to stay is an administrative infraction, not a criminal offence. Consequently, such situation cannot imply a punitive sanction. The Committee recalls that children should never be detained on the basis of their or their parents’ immigration status, and urges the State party to: (a) Remove from the its legislation any provision that considers any irregular immigration situation as a criminal offence; (b) Take all appropriate measures to ensure that administrative detention of migrant workers and members of their families on the basis of their migration status is an exceptional measure only for the shortest time possible, and adopted in the framework of a process that includes all due process guarantees; (c) Adopt, by law and in practice, alternative measures to detention of migrant workers and members of their families; (d) Ensure that migrant workers and members of their families held in detention centres have access to legal aid and consular services, that they are held in humane conditions, and that their treatment is otherwise in full compliance with articles 16 and 17 of the Convention; (e) Cease the detention and expulsion of migrant children on the basis of their migration status, and ensure that the best interest of the child and the principle of non-discrimination are taken as primary considerations. 2014
Human Rights Committee§13. ...Section 5(1)(e) of the Immigrations Act, which includes homosexuals on the list of prohibited persons for purposes of immigration... The State party should review its Constitution and legislation to ensure that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are prohibited. The Committee further urges the State party to include in its initial report information on the outcome of the case challenging the constitutionality of section 53 of the Criminal Code and section 5(1)(e) of the Immigration Act. The State party should also ensure that cases of violence against LGBT persons are thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted, and if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that the victims are adequately compensated. 2013

Regional legal instruments Show sources
NameYear of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para)1996

Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
NameYear of VisitObservation Date
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children20132015
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation YearObservation Date
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children§90. Reconsider the restrictive immigration policy that further compounds the problem of human trafficking and undermines efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking. Urgently establish a separate migrant holding facility. Take all necessary measures to avoid double victimization of those subjected to trafficking and subsequently detained as irregular migrants. Amend relevant laws to decriminalize irregular migrants, especially those victims of trafficking. §91. Halt the practice of detention and deportation of children as this contravenes the principle of the best interest of the child and the principle of non-discrimination entrenched in the international Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Belize is a State Party.20142014
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20092017
Yes2013

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system Show sources
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Centralized system2016

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Ministry of Home AffairsInterior or Home Affairs2010
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Kolbe FoundationPrivate Not-For-Profit2015
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
Yes2015

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
4,8312014
4,8342013
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
812014
852011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
232010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
11.52014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD) Show sources
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in USD)Observation Date
362014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
101High2015
84High2014

Country Links


Additional Resources


Immigration Detention in Belize

Belize’s immigration detention practices contrast with the policies of neighbouring countries in key ways. In particular, the country provides criminal sanctions for immigration-related infractions and appears to be the only nation in Central America that does not have a dedicated administrative immigration detention facility.

Submission to the Committee on Migrant Workers: Issues regarding Immigration detention in Mauritania and Belize

Immigration Detention in Belize

Who’s Trying to Cross the Border? Everyone

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