Groups call for hu­man­i­tar­ian ap­proaches to Venezue­lan refugees

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

An im­me­di­ate mora­to­rium on the fin­ing and jail­ing of Venezue­lan im­mi­grants for il­le­gal en­try into Guyana is among the pro­pos­als from seven civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions, which are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to ur­gently adopt “sen­si­ble hu­man­i­tar­ian poli­cies” to ad­dress the con­tin­ued in­flux of per­sons flee­ing Venezuela.

“In mak­ing the pro­pos­als set out…, the sig­na­to­ries of this state­ment are con­scious of the very lim­ited re­sources Guyana can bring to bear on a refugee cri­sis. How­ever, we are also con­scious that pro­vid­ing Venezue­lans with the as­sur­ance that they will not be treated as crim­i­nals and hounded out of the coun­try is a hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse well within Guyana’s ca­pac­ity to im­ple­ment, the Amerindian Peo­ples As­so­ci­a­tion, the Angli­can Dio­cese of Guyana, Trans­parency In­sti­tute of Guyana Inc., the Guyana Is­lamic Trust, the Guyana Hu­man Rights As­so­ci­a­tion, Pol­icy Fo­rum Guyana and Red Thread said in a joint state­ment, which was is­sued on Thurs­day.

They urged that the ju­di­ciary cease with im­me­di­ate ef­fect the prac­tice of fin­ing and jail­ing il­le­gal Venezue­lan im­mi­grants, the ma­jor­ity of whom are women.

They also called on the im­mi­gra­tion author­i­ties to re­spect Guyana’s in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights obli­ga­tions to chil­dren, who should not be sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies.

Ad­di­tion­ally, they urged that the gov­ern­ment give ef­fect to the ex­hor­ta­tion of the UN High Com­mis­sion for Refugees (UNHCR) to adopt more flex­i­ble pro­ce­dures with re­spect to lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion, and to pro­vide Venezue­lans seek­ing tem­po­rary res­i­dence with se­cu­rity of ten­ure for a pe­riod of one or two years with per­mis­sion to work.

Also pro­posed is the ur­gent re­vi­sion and publication of any pro­ce­dures ap­pli­ca­ble to Venezue­lan-Guyanese cit­i­zens that would fa­cil­i­tate their re­main­ing in Guyana and that the im­mi­gra­tion author­i­ties de­vise a form of tem­po­rary ID card, which can be pro­vided to Venezue­lans de­sirous of re­main­ing in Guyana but not claim­ing refugee sta­tus.

The groups also urged that Toshaos in re­mote bor­der com­mu­ni­ties, in li­ai­son with Im­mi­gra­tion author­i­ties, be au­tho­rized and em­pow­ered to im­ple­ment to a reg­is­tra­tion process of Venezue­lans cross­ing the bor­der.

“…our or­ga­ni­za­tions are ap­peal­ing to all Guyanese as in­di­vid­u­als or or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­velop a pos­i­tive and wel­com­ing ap­proach to dis­placed Venezue­lans. The at­ti­tude of or­di­nary cit­i­zens, as demon­strated wher­ever mass move­ments of peo­ples have taken place in re­cent year, is as crit­i­cal as of­fi­cial pol­icy in de­ter­min­ing a suc­cess­ful out­come,” the groups said in the state­ment, while not­ing that they were call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to act based on the prin­ci­ples of de­cency, hu­man­i­tar­ian im­per­a­tives and our com­mit­ments un­der hu­man rights con­ven­tions.

Four of the pro­pos­als rely on the Guid­ance Note is­sued by the UNHCR, which calls on States re­ceiv­ing and/or al­ready host­ing Venezue­lans to al­low them ac­cess to their ter­ri­tory, and to con­tinue to adopt ap­pro­pri­ate and prag­matic pro­tec­tion-ori­ented re­sponses, build­ing on ex­ist­ing good prac­tices in the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Note, “such ar­range­ments are guided by the prin­ci­ple that pro­vid­ing in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion is a hu­man­i­tar­ian and non­po­lit­i­cal act” and could, for ex­am­ple, in­clude “…tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion or stay ar­range­ments, or al­ter­na­tively visa or labour mi­gra­tion ar­range­ments that would of­fer ac­cess to le­gal res­i­dence and to a stan­dard of treat­ment akin to in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion.”

The groups said their state­ment was prompted by their in­ter­ac­tion with a del­e­ga­tion of Venezue­lan cit­i­zens cur­rently res­i­dent in Guyana.

They noted that Venezue­lans es­ti­mate that some 30 of their na­tion­als, many of whom are of Guyanese ori­gin, ar­rive in Guyana every day with­out visas.

They added that the Venezue­lan refugees al­ready here are mak­ing clear that they are not look­ing for free services, that many of the Venezue­lan-Guyanese among them can make ar­range­ments with for­mer fam­ily and friends, and that the over­whelm­ing need is se­cu­rity of be­ing here long enough to earn in or­der to sort out a more per­ma­nent fu­ture else­where.

The state­ment pointed out that the World Bank es­ti­mates 655,400 Venezue­lans left the coun­try since 2015. Fur­ther, it said a year ago a dol­lar was worth about 4,200 bo­li­vars, while to­day it is worth 213,200 bo­li­vars. The av­er­age monthly salary is US$3.

The groups high­lighted the poli­cies adopted by other coun­tries to ad­dress the in­flux from Venezuela, such as the Bor­der Mo­bil­ity Card be­ing is­sued in Colom­bia to al­low move­ment around the bor­der with­out a pass­port, but with mi­gra­tory con­trol.

The state­ment added that indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties on Guyana’s borders have seen a sub­stan­tial in­crease in num­bers due to the re­turn to their place of ori­gin of peo­ple who left years ago.

“A lo­cal group has doc­u­mented over a hun­dred un­doc­u­mented Venezue­lans. Many of them are Guyane­seVenezue­lans, the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of those who fled in the 1980s when Guyana was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­di­tions not dis­sim­i­lar from what Venezuela is now pass­ing through. Venezuela at that time opened its doors to them, they were al­lowed to work, they en­joyed the right to health to ed­u­ca­tion and ba­sic services…,” it added fur­ther.

The groups noted that in con­trast, Venezue­lan im­mi­grants are com­plain­ing about their cur­rent treat­ment by Guyanese of­fi­cial­dom. They noted that Venezue­lans com­plain of hav­ing to pay fines of $30,000 for il­le­gal en­try and that they also are forced to bribe the po­lice with sim­i­lar amounts. Venezue­lan fam­i­lies are also be­ing split up at en­try points, they said, while adding that in one case a 14-year-old was re­turned to Venezuela for be­ing with­out a pass­port, while his other fam­ily mem­bers were ad­mit­ted.

The state­ment added that the num­ber of un­doc­u­mented Venezue­lans is likely to in­crease be­cause trav­el­ling over­land costs roughly US$100 com­pared to the cost of fly­ing to more dis­tant Latin coun­tries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.