Abused Venezuelan migrants to get Govt support

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With an estimated 30,000 Venezuelan migrants now in Guyana, their vulnerability to various types of abuse and exploitation is high, according to the Ministry of Social Protection.

This is why the Guyana Government has partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to develop a programme for Venezuelan survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), according to the Department of Public Information.

Government has already been providing a number of supportive measures for Venezuelan migrants including seeking to developing homesteads and integrating migrant children into the local school system.

The Ministry of Social Protection’s Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit met with the UNFPA on Thursday to interact with stakeholders to identify key service providers; the types of services offered to survivors; and to generate a map of services with key contact information.

GBV Specialist attached to the UNFPA, Karly Bennett, revealed that there are currently 177,000 Venezuelan migrants in the Caribbean, with some 30,000 already settled in Guyana.

Because of their vulnerability to violence, UNFPA, the government and other UN agencies conducted an assessment in Regions 1, 4, and 7.

“What came out of the report is that some of the major concerns are around trafficking, sexual violence, survival sex, sexual exploitation and abuse, harassment and IPV or domestic violence. We see this a lot in emergencies, this kind of convergence of sexual violence, trafficking and survival sex, that means there is a combination of people trafficked for sexual servitude,” Bennett explained.

In light of the findings, she recommended that the first step to address this issue is service mapping.

During this step the aim is to bring together key players in each region and map the services available for GBV survival.

The next step highlighted is to make a referral pathway including brochures or leaflets with all the requisite information to distribute to victims. Bennett finally recommended the training of frontline providers including immigration, police officers and social workers to strengthen their referral systems.

Manager of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit, Akilah Dorris explained that her Unit does not have access to readily available information of GBV in Guyana and relies on reports shared by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and very few partners.

The Unit is governed by the 1996 Domestic Violence Act and the 2010 Sexual Offenses Act which were both amended. Both Acts provide basic provisions for persons who were identified as victims of sexual violence, GBV or domestic violence; as well as the mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

According to the Manager, the most recent drafted national plan of action which focusses on the protection of victims, prevention of GBV, sexual and domestic violence, prosecutions, rehabilitation of victims among others will soon be approved for implementation.

In the interim, the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit has developed protocols for police officers, medical practitioners and prosecutors to address sexual violence related matters. With support from the UNFPA, a consultancy that will see the development and implementation of an Essential Services Package for survivors of gender-based violence, is being undertaken.

Representatives from Women Across Differences, International Office of Migration, Counter Trafficking Unit, Blossom Inc, Childlink, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Ministries of Communities and Public Health, Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Sex Worker Association were present at the workshop.

Editor’s Note: The Ministry of Social Protection, when contacted, confirmed that 30,000 Venezuelan migrants are in Guyana according to statistics presented by the UNFPA.