The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Belize organized its first humanitarian charter flight carrying on Friday, July 3. On board, 32 stranded Salvadorans nationals returned to El Salvador before repatriating 13 Belizeans from El Salvador. Due to COVID-19 related border and airport closures, the 13 Belizean were stranded for nearly four months. Within the stranded Salvadoran group were 20 males and 12 females, 1 of whom is a minor; the Belizean group included 8 females and 5 males.
“There are currently limited routes for migrants to return home. Through the support and close coordination of government authorities, partners and IOM teams, we have been able to ensure Salvadorans and Belizeans can reach their countries of origin in a safe and orderly manner.”
IOM has supported the Government of Belize and El Salvador in their efforts to return these stranded group of migrants. These efforts are closely coordinated with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries and its Embassies, the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Health.
IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return Program
“This is the first large group movement of its kind for stranded migrants in Belize through the program. Meanwhile, this represents a big step in the right direction for the dignified return of migrants in the region.”
IOM staff in Belize, prior to repatriation, provided humanitarian assistance to the group which included medical assistance, psychosocial support prior to departure, lodging, food, hygiene kits and protective products for COVID-19 (masks, face shields and hand sanitizer). However, interviews were conducted remotely and operations followed the security protocols established by the Government of Belize.
Upon arrival, the returning Belizeans were checked by the Ministry of Health and placed in mandatory 14- day quarantine, supported by IOM Belize, in a designated place by the Quarantine Authority of Belize. Additionally, assistance for the return of stranded migrants is part of the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme, an IOM humanitarian project that aims to provide a safe and dignified return for migrants who wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin but do not have the means to do so. The program is funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). This flight marks IOM Belize’s first organized humanitarian charter flight for strander migrants.