A safe ha­ven in Scot­land

Des réfugiés vé­né­zué­liens ont po­sé leurs va­lises à Aber­deen.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire -

De­puis 2014, en rai­son de la grave crise éco­no­mique que tra­verse le Vé­né­zue­la du pré­sident Ni­colás Ma­du­ro, 2,3 mil­lions d’ha­bi­tants ont quit­té leur pays. Nombre d’entre eux ont trou­vé re­fuge dans les pays fron­ta­liers d’Amé­rique du Sud, dont l’ac­cès était jus­qu’à pré­sent fa­ci­li­té, et, dans une moindre me­sure, aux Etats-Unis. Mais une pe­tite com­mu­nau­té de réfugiés vé­né­zué­liens s’est im­plan­tée là où on ne l’at­ten­dait pas...

Aber­deen, Scot­land — This is an an­cient ci­ty on the chil­ly North Sea coast of Scot­land, known for its gra­nite ar­chi­tec­ture, abun­dant pubs and parks, and friend­ly folk who speak in a ly­ri­cal, of­ten ins­cru­table re­gio­nal dia­lect. So it’s not exact­ly the first place you’d ex­pect to find a thri­ving Ve­ne­zue­lan out­post. Yet, here they are. Aber­deen and other places in Scot­land have quiet­ly be­come a ti­ny oa­sis for re­fu­gees fleeing the so­cial strife and eco­no­mic col­lapse back home in Ve­ne­zue­la.

THE OIL IN­DUS­TRY

2. The in­flux star­ted over a de­cade ago, the first re­fu­gees drawn by one thing the two ve­ry dif­ferent coun­tries have in com­mon — the oil in­dus­try. Much of Aber­deen’s eco­no­my has been tied to oil and gas pro­duc­tion in the near­by North Sea. So when Ve­ne­zue­la’s state-run oil in­dus­try be­gan strug­gling, a num­ber of wor­kers took jobs here.

3. That was the seed of small but gro­wing com­mu­ni­ty. New re­fu­gees Car­los and Na­tha­ly Her­nan­dez, with their two young daugh­ters and tee­nage son in tow, had ho­ped to es­cape the ri­sing chaos and crime at home by mo­ving to Mia­mi, a ci­ty with a boo­ming Ve­ne­zue­lan po­pu­la­tion. But fea­ring it would be hard to live

le­gal­ly long-term in the Uni­ted States, they soon set their sights on Scot­land ins­tead.

4. The tran­si­tion has not been ea­sy — the food was bland, they didn’t speak En­glish, let alone the lo­cal va­riant, and the wea­ther was a shock af­ter bal­my Ca­ra­cas. For Ve­ne­zue­lan exiles, the fa­mi­ly’s experience will sound pain­ful­ly fa­mi­liar. He was a well-to-do ve­te­ri­na­rian and far­mer, she an ac­coun­tant who hel­ped run a te­le­com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny. They li­ved in a ga­ted moun­tain­side com­mu­ni­ty out­side Ca­ra­cas, put their two young daugh­ters and tee­nage son in pri­vate school and took va­ca­tions to Mia­mi and Or­lan­do.

5. Now, Car­los pe­dals his rus­ty used bi­cycle to his night shift wa­shing dishes at a res­tau­rant. Na­tha­ly spends her days clea­ning ho­tel rooms. They live in a cram­ped apart­ment next to an an­cient Scot­tish ce­me­te­ry. But the young girls, 9-year-old Ana and 6-year-old So­phia, can do so­me­thing they could not in crime-wra­cked Ve­ne­zue­la: play out­side wi­thout fear. “The parks. The beach. … There’s no dan­ger here, not like Ve­ne­zue­la, where I couldn’t even go out­side and jump

to set, set, set one's sights on avoir des vues sur; ici, se tour­ner vers / ins­tead à la place. 4. bland fade, in­si­pide / let alone en­core moins / bal­my doux, agréable / …will sound pain­ful­ly fa­mi­liar … rap­pel­le­ra de dou­lou­reux sou­ve­nirs / well-to-do ai­sé / ac­coun­tant comp­table / to run, ran, run di­ri­ger, gé­rer / ga­ted com­mu­ni­ty lo­tis­se­ment construit comme une en­clave, en­tiè­re­ment ceint de murs et sous sur­veillance per­ma­nente, sorte de ghet­to ur­bain de luxe. 5. rus­ty rouillé / night shift tra­vail, quart de nuit / dishes vais­selle / cram­ped exi­gu / crime-wra­cked ron­gé par le crime (to wrack = to rack ron­ger, te­nailler) / around,” Ana said in a mix­ture of Spa­nish and bro­ken En­glish.

BEGINNING OF THE EXODUS

6. Since the late Pre­sident Hugo Cha­vez took po­wer in 1999, anyw­here from two to four mil­lion Ve­ne­zue­lans have fled the coun­try, ac­cor­ding to es­ti­mates, most to neigh­bo­ring South Ame­ri­can coun­tries. Af­ter near­ly two de­cades of so­cia­list rule, hy­per­in­fla­tion and eco­no­mic mis­ma­na­ge­ment have led to cru­shing shor­tages of food, po­wer and wa­ter, a dra­ma­tic rise in violent crime and conti­nuing re­fu­gee cri­sis.

7. Most of the spot­light has been on the exodus to the Uni­ted States and neigh­bo­ring Co­lom­bia — the U.S. Agen­cy for In­ter­na­tio­nal De­ve­lop­ment re­cent­ly an­noun­ced it was gi­ving $6 mil­lion to help feed and aid the tens of thou­sands cros­sing the bor­der to Co­lom­bia. But ma­ny Ve­ne­zue­lans al­so have fled to Eu­rope, where those see­king in­ter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion there has in­crea­sed by over 3,500 percent. In Fe­brua­ry alone, near­ly 1,400 Ve­ne­zue­lans sought asy­lum, near­ly all of them in Spain.

THE UNI­TED KINGDOM’S APPEAL

8. The Uni­ted Kingdom has al­so pro­ven a gro­wing op­tion. There were an es­ti­ma­ted 22,000 Ve­ne­zue­lan-born people li­ving in le­gal­ly in the Uni­ted Kingdom last year, ac­cor­ding to na­tio­nal sta­tis­tics — near­ly triple the num­ber from just five years ear­lier. The po­pu­la­tion in Scot­land re­mains small. About 2,000 people of Ve­ne­zue­lan birth were re­cor­ded li­ving le­gal­ly in Scot­land last year — but that’s double the num­ber from a de­cade ago, the stats show.

9. The Her­nan­dez fa­mi­ly ma­na­ged to wea­ther Ve­ne­zue­la’s de­cline for lon­ger than ma­ny others. Car­los Her­nan­dez ran a farm rai­sing and buying and sel­ling pigs, cat­tle and chi­ckens, which meant they ne­ver la­cked for pro­vi­sions even when food stocks be­gan va­ni­shing in the past few years. The illu­sion was shat­te­red in Ju­ly 2017 when eight tee­nage gun­men see­king mo­ney burst in­to Car­los Her­nan­dez’s farm, and held him and his em­ployees hos­tage for four hours.

10. The fa­mi­ly first flew to Mia­mi. Not wan­ting to live in Mia­mi ille­gal­ly, Car­los and Na­tha­ly ini­tial­ly mo­ved to Spain, but the job pros­pects were dim. Af­ter spea­king to a friend li­ving in Scot­land, the fa­mi­ly de­ci­ded to set­tle in Aber­deen. The ci­ty of just un­der 200,000 people is si­tua­ted on the Nor­theast coast of Scot­land, of­ten an af­ter­thought to more pro­minent me­tro areas such as Edin­burgh and Glas­gow. But Aber­deen has been an im­por­tant in­dus­trial hub since the 1970s, when world oil com­pa­nies ar­ri­ved to ex­ploit the oil riches of the North Sea.

11. The ci­ty’s for­tunes have eb­bed and flo­wed with the oil mar­ket, but one of its booms coin­ci­ded with un­rest thou­sands of miles away. In late 2002 and 2003, Ve­ne­zue­la was pa­ra­ly­zed by a wor­kers strike and la­bor slow­down at the na­tio­nal oil com­pa­ny, Pe­tro­leos de Ve­ne­zue­la. Op­po­nents of Cha­vez ho­ped to force a new elec­tion, but he streng­the­ned his grip on po­wer by fi­ring as ma­ny as 12,000 of the com­pa­ny’s 38,000 em­ployees. Oil in­dus­try com­pa­nies in Scot­land, then hur­ting for qua­li­fied em­ployees, be­gan scoo­ping up wor­kers. Their num­bers were small in Scot­land, but enough that the ties at­trac­ted other Ve­ne­zue­lans as Pre­sident Ni­co­las Ma­du­ro’s eco­no­mic blun­ders plun­ged the coun­try in­to tur­moil du­ring the past couple of years.

(Mar­tin Me­jia/AP/SIPA)

Ve­ne­zue­lan mi­grants walks to Li­ma af­ter cros­sing the bor­der from Ecua­dor in­to Pe­ru, Au­gust 2018.

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