Gov’t studying set up of centres for Venezuelan immigrants in Region One

Government is exploring the establishment of humanitarian centres in Region One (Barima-Waini) for Venezuelan immigrants, according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who on Monday assured that police, health and citizenship officials are monitoring those who have already taken up residence here.

Hundreds of Venezuelans have crossed into Guyana to escape the ongoing economic and political crisis in their country.

The issue engaged the attention of Cabinet last Tuesday and Harmon told a press briefing on Monday that the setting up of a multi-agency committee to pursue the establishment of humanitarian, government-controlled centres for the migrants and request international assistance in that regard was discussed.

He said that coordination between the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Public Health to address health issues, including vaccination and immunisation of the immigrants and the distribution of relevant posters in the requisite language, also formed part of the discussions.

The Citizenship Department in collaboration with the police, he said, “continues to monitor the arrival of Venezuelan migrants closely.” He said that it was reported that the last group that arrived here consisted of 42 persons. While he did not say when this group arrived, he informed that government continues to provide food and emergency supplies to those who are here.

Later, in response to questions, he said that if necessary the government will look at establishing humanitarian centres in other border regions.

Harmon said that regional administrations are utilising their resources to deal with the influx and added that when it becomes “a major issue” the government will respond. He said too that government is also mindful that the majority of migrants are from the Warrau nation and therefore it is also looking at the “cultural issues that are related to them being there.”

As it stands, the Guyana Government is receiving assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Just over a week ago, Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix announced that plans are in motion for the setting up of a homestead settlement area for the 260 confirmed Venezuelan immigrants who are occupying areas in Region One.

In an interview with the Public Information and Press Services Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency at the end of the third multi-agency coordinating committee meeting, Felix said that the resettlement area will allow the Venezuelans to be self-reliant.

“It is intended that we [will] develop something like a homestead where families are accumulated and eventually we can move them into cash crop farming. We can encourage that so that in the first instance they can feed themselves and if they have surpluses they can sell. We are looking at crops for their sustenance and their immediate needs. Once you get that…going then the next thing is to guide them into areas in which they can sustain themselves. The immediate outcome is that we want to see them properly settled and they must be able to sustain themselves…,” he said.

Several local groups had banded together to provide aid to the Venezuelans and in March this year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued new guidelines on how Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their country were to be handled.

Hundreds of Venezuelans have crossed into Guyana in recent months but far larger numbers have fled to Colombia and other countries. Trinidad has also seen a steady flow of Venezuelans across the Gulf of Paria. 

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