THERE have been letters in the press from citizens, urging the government to accept Venezuelans into our country, who are fleeing from the political-social-economic crises that have exacted crippling effects on daily life in that neighbouring state.
Editor, we are speaking here of a refugee situation, where nationals of another state have found that there are no support mechanisms that guarantee their daily survival, much less existence, in their country of origin. They are thus forced to flee to a nearby state that may accept them.
This is an all-too-common situation, that has become endemic within the international system, with the most recent being the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar, to neighbouring Bangladesh.
I am aware that this is a contingency situation that has affected many a state, especially those with contiguous borders with the affected state. It reflects a world in continuous turmoil and strife, uprooting humans, forcing them to seek shelter elsewhere.
Accepting refugees are fraught with many, many challenges for the receiving country. Beginning, with its many obligations in keeping with the Convention on Refugees: the financial means necessary for such a humanitarian effort is very costly, as it involves an array of social services, obligatory under the convention. This often places a strain on the host country’s social services, often from states that have severe financial limitations.
In as much as one would empathise with our Venezuelan neighbours, accepting refugees from the latter is not only a very delicate issue for Guyana, but a decision which should be carefully thought out, given the status of relations between our two countries.
Firstly, this would mean accepting an influx into territory for which there is a controversial claim by the affected state. What could stop the refugees from hoisting a flag, over such a geographic space, with the support of their home government?
Secondly, there are always going to be security concerns with an influx of refugees. Already, there is reported Venezuelan gang activity in some areas, with the ruthless Syndicato apparently involved. With the ruthlessness of Latino gangs very well established, this is an added dimension that Guyana can do without, particularly in areas that are remote, and which borders are porous and challenging for our security forces.
The proliferation of such organised criminal activity over so huge an area as our hinterland is too frightening to contemplate.
Thirdly, such an undertaking carries a huge financial cost, and usually challenges the social services of any country, particularly developing ones such as Guyana. Although there have been cases of Venezuelans being charged for illegal entry, with the defence of fleeing a crippled country being given as cause, deportations are still being enforced, as should be for such an immigration offence.
This signals that government is treading very cautiously on the refugee issue as regards citizens from our western neighbouring state.