Former foreign minister urges Govt to ‘do more’ for Venezuelan migrants

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Dr Henry Jeffrey

Given the recent influx of Venezuelans into Guyana, a recommendation is being made to have Government provide more human and financial support to these individuals.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey believes that the situation regarding the migration of these foreign nationals could be better managed.

However, he said that a proper needs assessment should be carried out to determine the priority, so as to ensure that a proper response to the situation is implemented.

“From my understanding, they are setting up some sort of camps for these people. But from the little that I saw, they are asking for more resources. And Central (Government) should provide human and financial (resources) . I don’t think there is an immediate need to move them out,” he added.

Dr Jeffrey was referring to Government’s move to build a humanitarian centre for these migrants in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam). However, the Regional Chairman of Region One (Barima-Waini), Bretnol Ashley said if a centre was built in his region, it would give both the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and the Central Government a better opportunity to monitor what these persons were actually doing.

A recent statement from the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) has outlined that instead of donating directly to the migrants, all donations should be sent to the Civil Defence Commission (CDC). While Ashley does not have an issue with this, he said representation from the region was imperative, so that the needs of those migrants could be properly met.

The Chairman had also stressed the lack of resources, adding that shortages of drugs and other medical supplies continued to plague the region as a result of the large number of Venezuelans.

While security remains a major concern for residents in those regions, Dr Jeffrey believes that the joint forces should respond to those concerns and Government must play a larger role in ensuring that any illegal practice being perpetrated by the foreigners was halted.

Asked whether he thinks this influx of Venezuelans will help to increase the number of people from the notorious Sindicato gang in Guyana, the former Foreign Minister said it was most likely to happen given the current circumstances in neighbouring Venezuela.

The Region One Chairman has already called on Government to heighten security patrols at the country’s borders since a number of threats were recently made.

He warned that the threats should be taken seriously by the country’s security forces, declaring that his RDC (was very concerned with these threats, expressing the view that he believes that the Venezuelans would act on those threats and as such, all stops should be pulled out to ensure that Guyana could effectively defend itself.

“Government and residents must recognise that because of Venezuela’s grave economic challenges, they are evidently desperate. We have heard that there is a plan to hijack the ferry and this resulted in the ferry having to be escorted into here a few weeks ago, because there were reports that the Sindicatos were planning an attack,” the Regional Chairman stressed.

He stressed that the number of migrants continues to increase while pointing out the need for a holistic response by the Government to alleviate a number of fears and concerns.

Government had stated last week that the number of documented Venezuelan migrants in Guyana stands at 3868. But Ashley thinks that the number is much higher, and is, therefore, calling for there to be a greater presence of immigration officials to improve documentation.

This newspaper was told that while there are small numbers in the highly populated villages within Region One, other locations have also seen a steady rise in the number of migrants. Last year, statistics showed pockets of 40-100, with White Water having probably the largest number.

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