With 5123 documented Venezuelan migrants in Guyana, efforts are being made to roll out a programme to help them become self-sufficient, the National Multi-Sectoral Coordinating Committee noted in a statement.
Since the bulk of the migrants are in Region One, the initiative – which is being funded by the Australian Government – will first target communities in that area, particularly at Yarakita and White Water.
Spearheaded by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), the project will provide the migrants as well as locals with tangible and technical agricultural support so that they can become self-sufficient.
Currently, the IOM is in discussions with organisations such as the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the National Toshaos Council (NTC) to finalise the details pertaining to implementation.
The project will subsequently be extended to other communities with a large migrant population.
Meanwhile, the Social Protection Ministry is working to ensure that Guyanese returning from Venezuela are registered at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) so that they can be issued national identification cards which will enable them to benefit from public assistance once the relevant criteria are met.
Thousands of Venezuelans have been fleeing the Spanish-speaking nation in light of the growing social, political and economic crisis under the Nicolas Maduro Government. Many of them have been coming into neighbouring Guyana while others have dispersed to other countries in the region.
The situation has attracted international attention and only recently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that it will work with the Guyana Government to expand the infrastructure of hinterland schools to cater for migrant children.
With approximately 150 migrant children in Region One, the initiative will first be implemented there.
The Guyana Government and Corporate Guyana have also been playing a major role in distributing supplies to the migrants who have settled in communities along the border.
The Guyana Government had also announced plans to develop a homestead in Mabaruma, Region One for the migrants and up to mid-2018, authorities were in the process of acquiring land for the project.
The Public Health Ministry has also extended its services to these locations to better serve the migrants.
Public officers were also trained on international best practices in assisting migrants and protecting them from abuse and/or exploitation of any kind.
Additionally, the Region Two Administration – which also has a huge migrant population – has identified a two-storey building that will serve as a support centre.
Although the Government has managed to put certain mechanisms in place to deal with the Venezuelans seeking refuge in Guyana, it faces a major challenge of monitoring these individuals due to the length of the border between the two countries.
This poses a serious concern to the population, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge had noted last year.
“If you get 12 people or 15 moving and they are ill; malaria, measles and these types of afflictions, then there is a danger posed, especially to our Indigenous people by personal pandemics,” the Minister had explained.
Meanwhile, as the situation in Venezuela worsens, the number of persons fleeing is growing rapidly.
This is evident in Guyana’s context given that only some three months ago, there were an estimated 2900 documented Venezuelan migrants in the country.