Gov’t to accommodate Venezuelan migrants in Reg 1

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

– in humanitarian-controlled centres, with help of int’l community

GOVERNMENT is mulling the establishment of a multi-agency committee to pursue the establishment of humanitarian-controlled centres for Venezuelan migrants entering Guyana, even as it announces that it will build humanitarian centres.

“We are to build facilities to respond to where the Venezuelan citizens are coming from; we are trying to ensure that we have food, medical supplies for these residents when they come,” said Minister of State Joseph Harmon.

The minister told the media Monday at a post-Cabinet press briefing that the government is also requesting international assistance in this regard.

Last week, Minster of Citizenship Winston Felix reported on the presence of Venezuelan migrants in communities here along the north-western border, particularly in Region One (Barima-Waini).

“The minister drew Cabinet’s attention to the challenges being faced in Region One due to the migrants moving back and forth across the border,” he said.

As such, coordination between the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Public Health to address health issues, including vaccination and immunization of the migrants and the distribution of relevant posters in Spanish to assist in effective communication with the migrants was discussed.

Harmon assured reporters that the Department of Citizenship, in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force, continues to monitor the arrival of Venezuelan migrants closely, and that at the last count, a group of 42 had entered the country.

“The Government of Guyana continues to provide food and emergency supplies to the migrants,” he told reporters.

The Minister of State explained that the majority of the Venezuelan migrants entering the Region One area are from the Warrau tribe. “Therefore, we are not just looking at the facilities, but the cultural issues,” he said, while noting that the government is receiving “tremendous assistance” from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Asked whether similar centres would be established in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) where Venezuelan migrants have also entered, Harmon said the regional system is utilising regional resources to deal with the matter.

He, however, noted that if the numbers increase to that as seen in Region One, then a different approach would be taken.

At the weekend, it was announced that eight civic and faith-based organisations have launched what is called a Venezuela Support Group (VSG) to provide advice and assistance to Venezuelans seeking refuge from the deprivations and insecurity currently gripping their homeland.

In a joint statement, the group — which consists of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Guyana Institute for Transparency Inc. (GITI), Moray House Trust, Policy Forum Guyana, Red Thread, Roman Catholic Diocese of Guyana and Ursuline Sisters in Guyana — said it has since requested meetings with Minister Felix to brief him on its aims and to establish liaison arrangements with his ministry.

VSG’s initial focus is to ensure that persons arriving here from Venezuela receive information and assistance to secure valid visas to remain in Guyana, and are not exploited financially or abused in other ways.

“We have recently learnt that some consideration has been given to permit Venezuelans in Guyana to regularise their situation on the basis of possession of an ID card rather than a passport. Although, to date, there has been no formal announcement by the Government of Guyana on the matter, we welcome this development in general as protecting Venezuelans against exposure to detention, fines and deportation,” the statement added.

The group believes that by doing the aforementioned, Guyana would be in alignment with the recent appeal by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for neighbouring countries to adopt flexible arrangements of this nature.
The VSG is in the process of establishing offices made available by the Brickdam Cathedral in the compound opposite the church on Brickdam.