In a ‘Caribbean News Now’ May 17 article, the Mayor of Caracas, Venezuela, is reported as warning that Caribbean islands and Colombia “may suffer an influx of refugees from Venezuela if food shortages continue in the country.” He said that people were now hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food. Just a few days ago as many as 5,000 people looted a supermarket shouting “We are hungry!” According to the country’s Chamber of Food, producers would have run out of food some days ago. However, even if food items were still available, the prices would be almost six times what they were a year ago.
While we may bury our heads in the sand and say that the Syrian refugee problem does not concern us, the problem of the Venezuelan people cannot be similarly brushed aside. We have to be prepared for the possibility of these unfortunate people crossing our border into the North West District, or through Brazil to the Rupununi. We need to formulate a policy with regard to permitting them entry. Do we decide to prohibit entry to Venezuelans altogether? Would they be allowed in on a limited basis? Or do we accept all who are trying to escape this dire economic crisis in the interest of their own survival? And if we do accept any or all who claim economic refugee status, how should we respond with regard to their need for food and shelter?
We need to look at this matter with the urgency it deserves, remembering at all times that distance does not absolve us from the responsibility of being our brothers’ keepers.