Published On: Tue, Mar 13th, 2018

Prime Minister: “UNHCR must take into consideration Curaçao’s limited resources to take Venezuelan refugees”

Rhuggenaath2WILLEMSTAD - In light of the continuing outflow of Venezuelans to neighboring countries and beyond, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, has released new guidance for governments to address the situation of persons in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.

As a result of the complex political and socio-economic developments in Venezuela, a country that has traditionally been host to thousands of refugees, the number of people compelled to leave their homes continues to increase. The movements are taking place for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, lack of food, medicine or access to essential social services as well as loss of income. While not all Venezuelans leaving are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while all may not be refugees, a significant number are in need of international protection.

According to the UNHCR, there has been a 2,000% increase in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum worldwide since 2014, principally in the Americas during the last year. This number also includes those who came to Curaçao. Although over 94,000 Venezuelans have been able to access refugee procedures in other countries in 2017, many more of those in need of protection opt for other legal stay arrangements, that may be faster to obtain and provide the right to work, access to health and education. Yet, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans remain without any documentation or permission to stay legally in asylum countries. This makes them particularly vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, violence, sexual abuse, discrimination and xenophobia.

Within this context, UNHCR’s guidelines encourage States to ensure Venezuelans have access to territory and refugee procedures. In addition, UNHCR welcomes and calls on governments to adopt pragmatic protection-oriented responses for the Venezuelan people, such as alternative legal stay arrangements, including visas or temporary residence permits, as well as other regularization programs, which guarantee access to the basic rights of health care, education, family unity, freedom of movement, shelter and the right to work. UNHCR applauds countries in Latin America that have introduced such arrangements, and hopes that costs and requirements are eased, where necessary to ensure accessibility.

The UNCHR stress that in view of the situation in Venezuela, it is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there. This is now the case in Curaçao. When illegal Venezuelans are arrested they will be deported as soon as possible to their country.

According to several sources, this request made by the UNHCR is especially meant for Venezuela’s neighboring countries such as, among other, Colombia, Curaçao and Aruba.

Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath indicated to Curaçao Chronicle that in the humanitarian point of view and human rights, he understands the appeal made by the UNHCR to Venezuela’s neighboring countries. But the UN refugee agency must take into consideration Curaçao’s capacity to absorb the consequences of this policy for the community, considering the limitations of this island.

“What we do agree upon is that we must put more effort together with the international communities. The current situation in Venezuela is worrisome. My wish was for Venezuela to be part of this debate!” said Prime Minister Rhuggenaath.

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