“Expect more Venezuelans” – human rights body

first_imgBy Samuel SukhnandanWith thousands fleeing Venezuela on a daily as the humanitarian crisis intensifies, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has warned that more persons are likely to seek refuge in Guyana.Most Venezuelans are fleeing to Latin American countries that border Venezuela, but GHRA President, Mike McCormack said while the numbers here might not be as many as those other countries, they will continue to come.“It is possible that the numbers will increase here, particularly now that this crisis is getting worst,” he told Guyana Times on Wednesday, explaining that the Government must do everything to prepare for such an event.McCormack noted that countries in the Andean region seem to be reaching their capacity and they have also made life a bit more difficult than it was before for Venezuelans, by placing visa restrictions, among other things. This, he said, could lend to more Venezuelans coming here.“We will see more people coming. My sense is, we won’t see this massive number marching down roads. But I think we need to make a modest effort to try to get early warnings,” he said.The GHRA President feels persons in the bordering regions, particularly in Region One (Barima-Waini), should be educated and trained to respond to these cases.“So, if they notice the numbers are increasing and if we get that information early, we can take measures and, coordination groups in the various Ministries could respond effectively.”He also noted that the arrival of over 100 Arrau, a few months ago, was handled efficiently.“We have been learning by experience. And we have been fortunate that the border controversy, the nature of the terrain, the language barrier, may be reasons why they are not coming but that could change because there is a lot of interest being shown.”McCormack told this newspaper that the GHRA is also monitoring the situation and would encourage everyone to continue to be observant.“If we can keep up the work and the ‘don’t panic kind of attitude’…and don’t anticipate major problems before they actually arrive, I think we can keep this humanitarian obligation intact.”On that note, he commended the Government for its response, saying it has been doing a “remarkably good job” in adhering to calls by international agencies to use a flexible approach to the issue.Learning curve“Our feeling is the Government has been on a learning curve and we feel much more assured now with the official response to the crisis than… say a year ago, when the standard response of when Venezuelans coming to Guyana was either they needed a passport or a visa and then if they over stayed they were put before the courts and fined and so on,” he stated.According to McCormack, that has changed, as there is now a more flexible, efficient and comprehensive response to allowing Venezuelans who are seeking to stay in Guyana.“The way that kind of manifested, is…not only did they require passports or visas, but they got a three-month initial visa and it is renewable. Government has improved its reception procedure,” the GHRA President noted, while pointing out that medical checks are also being done. He said that is an indication of the Government being more confident from the experience of addressing the situation. McCormack also pointed to an example, where 27 females, mostly Venezuelans, were found inside a “strip club” at Bikers Bar, Covent Garden, East Bank Demerara.“A year ago, they would have all been charged for prostitution and put before the courts and deported. This time the Police raided the place, the girls were checked by the medical authorities and those who didn’t have visas, they were given and their status regularised. And the people who own the bar were prosecuted,” he observed.According to the human rights activist, this approach is much more effective and a humanitarian way of addressing the current situation of Venezuelans coming to Guyana.While Colombia has received far more Venezuelans than other countries so far, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they are spreading out to other countries.At least 40,000 Venezuelan migrants arrived in Peru in the first two months of this year. Thousands more have emigrated to Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, the United States and beyond.It has been reported also that boats carrying Venezuelan migrants have landed on some islands in the Caribbean. In January, one capsized off Curaçao, killing at least four people.The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum abroad has rocketed by 2000 per cent since 2014. Brazil is another of the countries to have received a huge influx. There is about 600 Venezuelans in Region One (Barima-Waini).last_img

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