Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday warn-ed that Guyana’s territorial integrity could be compromised if Venezuelan refugees are allowed to settle here permanently.
“I hope it [the planned homestead] is just a place that people can receive the generosity of Guyana, be treated in a dignified manner, to be repatriated at some point in time,” Jagdeo told reporters at a press conference held at his office last Thursday.
He noted that while Guyana has an obligation to assist the refugees, they must be sent back to their native country at some point. He was adamant that a permanent settlement could “pose a threat to our territorial integrity.”
Ministry of Citizenship Winston Felix announced earlier this month that a plot of land in Mabaruma had been identified for the establishment of a homestead settlement area or humanitarian centre for the registered Venezuelans, who are occupying areas in Barima-Waini (Region One).
According to a press release from the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), the Minister made this announcement shortly after the fifth multi-agency coordinating committee meeting had ended.
Felix stated that the resettlement area, which will allow the Venezuelans to be self-reliant, is privately-owned and government will have to initiate efforts to determine what arrangements can be put in place to acquire the land for the establishment of the centre.
“[The Department of] Immigration is continuing the registration and support work… The Police [are] also following through with the support work to this committee. So, all agencies, locally, are locked into this committee to provide services and support for the Venezuelans in Guyana. We are also [examining] the situation in Region Seven [in order] to find out where [the Venezuelans] are and what numbers we have to [cater for],” Felix was quoted as saying.
This development came about a week after State Minister Joseph Harmon told the media that government was exploring the establishment of humanitarian centres in that region.
Hundreds of Venezuelans have crossed into Guyana to escape the ongoing economic and political crisis in their country. Far larger numbers have fled to Colombia, Brazil and other countries. Trinidad has also seen a steady flow of Venezuelans across the Gulf of Paria.
Harmon assured that the Citizenship Ministry, with assistance from the police, is closely monitoring the arrivals. Those who arrived are provided with food and emergency supplies. The vaccination and immunisation of the immigrants is being dealt with by the Ministry of Public Health.
Several local groups had banded together to provide aid to the Venezuelans and in March this year the United Nations High Com-missioner for Refugees issued new guidelines on how Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their country were to be handled.
Jagdeo during his press conference expressed concern at how the government is handling the situation.