Multi-Agency Committee resuscitated to address influx of Venezuelans
The influx of Venezuelan migrants into Guyana is now being addressed by a Multi-Agency Coordinating Committee – which was recently established through coordinated Government efforts with international partners.
Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira; a meeting was recently convened to discuss varying aspects of the migrant situation.
Representatives from Government Ministries and United Nations agencies lauded the resuscitation of the Committee, noting that it brings a sense of strengthening capacity through coherent policies to prevent uncoordinated and duplicated activities. Discussions also focused on irregular border crossings and the registration of migrants. Equally important, attendees outlined initiatives and ongoing projects to assist migrants.
Among those attending the meeting were Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Elizabeth Harper; Director of the Bilateral Unit, Ambassador Michael Brotherson; and Director of the Legal Division, Kezia Campbell-Erskine.
They were joined by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Regional Coordinator and Chief of Mission, Robert Natiello; UNHCR Senior Liaison Officer, Cecilie Saenz Guerrero; UNICEF Representative, Nicolas Pron; UNICEF Deputy Representative, Irfan Akhtar; UNFPA Liason Officer, Alder Bynoe; PAHO Consultant on Disaster Preparedness, Tamica Noel.
Government entities which participated included the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Ministry of Housing and Water, the Guyana Police Force, Regional Health Services, the Civil Defence Commission, and the Child Care and Protection Agency.
Just last October, President Irfaan Ali had said that a special committee would be established to assist Guyanese remigrants from Venezuela. This was after a remigrant living in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) raised concerns during a meeting at the Suddie Early Development Childhood Centre.
The woman had explained that remigrants have encountered many challenges since they have little representation in the region. She said the lack of documentation has also hampered their children attending school, and it was costly to travel to Georgetown to have them rectified.
During his recent visit to Guyana, United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo pledged US$5 million in relief to help Venezuelans who had fled to Guyana.
Two years ago, the number of documented migrants in Guyana stood at over 5000 and this number has been growing ever since. After the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020, the UN had warned that because Guyana shares a 3000-kilometre largely unpatrolled and unprotected border with Venezuela, this would result in “risks of increased irregular border crossings and heightened pressure in areas of concentration and available services”.
The “Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19 United Nations Coordinated Appeal April-December 2020”, released by the UN, found that refugees and migrants, in particular those in irregular situations, are at high risk of being left out of health responses and continue to be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including violence and discrimination, smuggling and trafficking, and negative coping mechanisms.
The UN, in its emergency approach, has since begun a review of the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) by the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V), working closely with 17 individual Government-led responses, including Guyana’s.
According to the report, “it is crucial to ensure proper integration into the national health responses and to extend additional support to the particularly vulnerable group of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.”