Human trafficking is prohibited under Belize domestic law by the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Act of 2003. Punishment for those prosecuted under this act constitutes one to five years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
Tough as these penalties are, they are not proportionate to penalties for other serious criminal offences such as rape, which carries a penalty of eight years to life imprisonment.
The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act objective is to give effect in Belize to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, protocol of the United Nations.
The Act requires the Director of Public Prosecutions to inform victims of trafficking of their criminal cases in court, provides that the Immigration and Nationality Services shall issue temporary residency permits authorizing a victim of trafficking in persons and dependant children accompanying them to remain in Belize for the duration the criminal proceedings against the traffickers, establishes that the Department of Immigration must develop plans for the safe return of victims of trafficking and that this office must collect and publish, once every year in the month of December, statistical data on trafficking in persons in Belize.
Under Section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act (2000), unless exempted by the Minister with responsibility, the following persons are deemed prohibited immigrants:
- Persons unable to provide proof that they can adequately support themselves while in Belize, and who are likely to become a burden on the public fund due to infirmity of body or mind, or who are certified by a medical practitioner to be suffering from a communicable disease which could be dangerous to the community;
- Stowaways and persons who have been convicted of an offence in any country, on whom a sentence of imprisonment has been passed, as well as persons who have engaged in or are suspected to have engaged in illegal drug dealings;
- Persons who are suspected of being engaged in espionage/sabotage or any treasonable activities detrimental to the security of Belize; and
- Any person who has been refused a visa to enter Belize.