Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. It was a British colony until 1964, the year in which Great Britain granted it autonomy, and became completely independent in 1981. In addition to its heterogeneity, a consequence of European colonization and African slavery, and the migration of numerous other cultural communities; One of the characteristics that most stands out in Belize is its small population in relation to its geographical extension. According to the 2010 census, the population reaches approximately 322,453 inhabitants, of which almost 14.2% are foreigners. In relative terms, Belize is the Central American country that has received the largest foreign population since 19383 (IOM, 2010). These factors have caused an enormous change in the socio-cultural landscape of Belize during the last three decades,
Immigration and emigration
By the time Belize became independent, emigration had already become a central feature of Belizean society. The first large-scale emigration occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, when more than 1,000 male Belizeans were hired to work in agriculture and industry during World War II due to labor shortages in the United States. Many others also left to work in the Panama Canal Zone (Miller, 1993). In 1961, a natural disaster also triggered large-scale emigration when Hurricane Hattie devastated large swathes of the country (Babcock and Conway, 2000). The 1970s were a continuous period of emigration, especially for women who made a living as live-in maids or were drawn into the (low-wage) service sector in the United States (Babcock and Conway, 2000). The annual emigration rate averaged about 3,000 per year in the 1980s, and 2,100 per year in the 1990s (Mahler and Ugrina, 2006). On average, eighty-four percent went to the United States and five percent went to other Central American countries (Mahler and Ugrina, 2006). This significant emigration of Belizeans, which occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, was largely in response to the economic crisis after independence (Barry, 1995). 2006). On average, eighty-four percent went to the United States and five percent went to other Central American countries (Mahler and Ugrina, 2006). This significant emigration of Belizeans, which occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, was largely in response to the economic crisis after independence (Barry, 1995). 2006). On average, eighty-four percent went to the United States and five percent went to other Central American countries (Mahler and Ugrina, 2006). This significant emigration of Belizeans, which occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, was largely in response to the economic crisis after independence (Barry, 1995).
Documented political unrest in the Central American region during the 1970s and 1980s also led to a massive influx of migrants, especially from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Precise figures are difficult to determine as many immigrants entered the country irregularly and settled in rural rather than urban areas. However, in 1993, the UNHCR estimated that around 31,000 Central American immigrants were in Belize. At that time, this number represented 13% of the total population. Of this amount, 35% were recognized refugees, 25% legal immigrants, and 40% were in an irregular situation. Again, in 1996 the UNHCR estimated that around 10,000 undocumented Central American immigrants lived in Belize. (Murillo, 2005)
The relationship between large-scale movements out of the country and the influx of Central Americans is complex. On the one hand, such movements have succeeded in replacing what was once a mostly English-speaking population with Spanish-speaking ones, a process now known as ‘latinization’. Second, ‘latinization’ was accompanied by economic displacement as newcomers were willing to work for lower wages (Moberg, 1993). Due to immigration and emigration, there was a major demographic change that caused a change in the socio-cultural landscape of Belize. In the mid-1980s, it was estimated that a quarter of all people born in Belize resided in the United States (Pastor, 1985). Nevertheless,
The 1990s also saw an influx of immigrants from Taiwan and mainland China, as well as Chinese from Hong Kong. Much of this flow was in response to the now-defunct Belize Economic Citizenship Investment Program (BEICP), under which many invested in Belizean citizenship through a contribution of US$25,000 per family. to the BEICP Program (Department of Immigration, 2012). Between 1990 and 1994, 8,578 permanent residence documents were approved for Asian immigrants (Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1995), which corresponds to approximately 4% of an estimated total population of 222,000 in 1996 (Belize Institute of Statistics).
The net effect of migration contributed to a population increase at a rate of 2.6% per year. The 2010 census registered approximately 46,000 foreign-born inhabitants, which means an increase of 35% compared to the 2000 census. Central Americans represent almost three quarters of these foreigners, of which 41% were from Guatemala, 15% from El Salvador and 15% from Honduras (2010 census). The foreign-born share of the total population reached a high level in 1995, with international migrants constituting almost 18% of the total population. Although there was a drop to 14.5% in 2000, the most recent statistics indicate a downward trend (2010 census).
Although the emigration rate has decreased, Belizeans with high levels of education continue to leave the country the most. As indicated in the country’s 2000 official census report, half of the emigrants had secondary school degrees, while the percentage with tertiary education had increased by 64% from the rate recorded in 1991 ( Mahler and Ugrina, 2006).
However, although the losses suffered by skilled migration can translate into a “brain drain” and the dangers of an export economy remain a real threat, immigration to Belize has shown considerable impact on socio-economic development. Belize economy.
Finally, due to emigration, remittances have also been a growing factor in the country’s development. Remittances, the transfer of money by a foreign worker to their home country, make up approximately 5.4% of GDP (gross domestic product). The total amount of remittances to Belize in 2010 reached US$7.68 billion. These remittances represent approximately a third of the income generated by tourism and 30% more than the combined value of the country’s two main export products: shrimp and sugar (Central Bank of Belize, 2010).