– Minister Felix hands out food items to scores squatting on EBD
OVER 800 Venezuelan children are registered in schools locally, as government, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ensures that children are in school and are under hygienic conditions.
This is according to Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, during an outreach with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), on Thursday, to share out food stuff and other supplies to Venezuelan migrants and Guyanese squatting along East Bank Demerara (EBD), between Grove and Herstelling.
He said that a Ministerial Committee is overlooking the Venezuelan migrant situation throughout Guyana. Scores of families that include Venezuelan migrants were among 600 persons who squat along the EBD. Officials from the Ministry of Public Health and the Guyana Police Force’s Immigration Department visited earlier this week to assess the needs of the migrants.
Minister Felix said the squatter settlement of almost 150 Venezuelans is between Grove and Herstelling, EBD, along the seaside. About 30 of the migrants are children.
He explained that, from April last, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reached out to countries surrounding Venezuela and asked for Venezuelans not to be deported or targeted but be treated humanely. “As a result of that we have been embracing the Venezuelan migrants, however they come, as a result of the policy not to return them. We have been giving them ‘three-month stays’ which are renewable,” Minister Felix said.
He explained that many of the squatters were not in compliance with the renewal of their stay, but the circumstances, under which they live in Guyana, were being examined. Minister Felix said that Immigration and the Ministry of Health would interface with the Venezuelans, “and if they were not previously vaccinated or registered by the police that has to be done here.”
He noted that a discussion with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will facilitate further discussions on relocating the Venezuelans to a more habitable surrounding.
The Minister noted that all donations and resource allocations to Venezuelan migrants must be passed through the CDC. “Any person or company wishing to make donations to the migrants must go through the civil defence commission. No one is authorized to do so directly,” he said.
He said that the Ministry of Social Protection was part of the committee and accommodation and cash grants were given to scores of Venezuelans to start living a new life on their own.
“If the migrants find their own accommodation, support is given; similarly the international community is instrumental in finding accommodation and support in whatever way,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, approximately one mile along the riverbank was decorated with many tiny shacks made of scraps of wood, pieces of plastic and old zinc sheets. Some shacks in the migrant community in some cases house more than 12 persons. The condition in which these migrants live is below the normal standard of living. There were no toilet facilities visible, no proper security measures to protect these refugee families from thieves and severe weather conditions.
One man who came from San Felix, Bolivar State, Venezuela, said that his wife and children, including himself, came without any documentation. The man said that he accepts that it is against the law to enter a country without permission. But he could not allow his family to endure the crisis in Venezuela any longer.