BELIZE CITY, Belize – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the department of youth services signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly support refugee and Belizean youth.
Both entities will coordinate and collaborate on actions to support the protection and inclusion of young men and women affected by forced displacement.
Areas of collaboration include community-based interventions that spark dialogue between young refugees and their communities and improving the access to services to prevent or respond to sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and abuse.
The joint work plan also seeks to promote awareness and visibility of the rights of youth including those affected by forced displacement.
Kevin Bernard, minister of youth, sport and e-Governance, stated: “The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding with the UN Refugee Agency will impact the lives of our young Belizeans and those seeking refuge and international protection in Belize. I am excited to share the resources that we have through the department of youth services and I look forward to providing greater services to our youth in Belize, including refugees and asylum seekers. A partnership with UNHCR will further realize our goals as the leading youth development agency.”
Belize is home to 2,394 registered and an estimated 3,400 more unregistered asylum seekers and refugees who have come to Belize seeking safe haven and protection, mostly from nearby El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Out of these, about 34 percent are 13 to 29-year-old young refugees seeking protection.
“Youth are the beacons of hope, especially in challenging times like these,” said Renee Cuijper’s UNHCR’s deputy representative of the multi-country office covering Belize during her visit to the country. “By partnering with the department of youth services, we can enable safe and inclusive environments for refugees and local to develop their skills and contribute to Belize together.”