Region 1 RDC says situation could lead to ‘crisis level’
Influx of Venezuelans
…as Chairman calls emergency meeting with stakeholders
As the number of Venezuelans coming here continues to increase, the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region One (Barima-Waini) called an emergency meeting involving all stakeholders to discuss ways in which they could address the plethora of issues they face.
Regional Chairman Brethnol Ashley told Guyana Times that the meeting was held on Tuesday and involved the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, the Officer in Charge of the Police in the region, and other officials. They looked at ways of addressing the rise in criminal activities and possible health risks.
Ashley had previously expressed worry over the fact that the region lacks resources to cater for the individuals who are seeking refuge there. The Chairman stressed on the lack of human resources, adding that shortages of drugs and other medical supplies continue to plague the region due to the increase in persons coming into the region.
“The Government hasn’t intervened in the way we would want them to… that is to ensure that homesteads are constructed for the migrants, among other things,” Ashley stated, adding that the situation on the ground is larger than what has been reported and the region’s capacity to respond is limited.
He said, “While it might seem as something not to worry about, it is something that concerns us because the large numbers of migrants that are here, currently pose a security and health threat. The regional office plans to visit some of the areas in which they are located.”
According to Ashley, the RDC has received more complaints of these migrants getting involved in certain illegal activities and break and entering into business places. But the Regional Chairman said if that is not enough, citizens in the region have complained of being harmed and harassed by some migrants.
But what the Regional Chairman is also worried about is the fact that these migrants pose a major health risk to residents in the region, asserting that sanitation and hygiene are very important. At present, the region is being affected by a dry spell, with most communities not being able to access potable water.
“We worry that if these migrants are not placed in an environment where they are proper sanitary facilities and water, it could be a recipe disaster and possible health issues… I would want to say that if this is not addressed soon, it could become a crisis,” he told Guyana Times.
Based on the discussions held between the officials of the RDC and the other stakeholders, several visits will be made to the villages and communities where these migrants are staying. Once an assessment is done, a report will be sent to Central Government with not only concerns but recommendations.
On Wednesday, the Department of Public Information reported that 140 Venezuelan migrants arrived in Georgetown on the same day on the MV Barima, which departed from Kumaka. Citizenship Minister Winston Felix informed the DPI that the migrants were documented, immunised and taken to the Guyana Police Force’s Headquarters, Eve Leary, Georgetown.
It was also reported that of the total number of migrants, about 70 of them had connections, whether relatives, friends or acquaintances, in the city; into whose care those persons have since been released. An additional 66 who do not have any connection on the coast, remain at Eve Leary where they are being provided with meals.
“We are seeking to source… long-term arrangements for them in terms of accommodation… but so far we are in control of the situation. We have assistance from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and we are managing the situation with their support,” Minister Felix said.
Additionally, Spanish-speaking Guyanese are on hand to translate the needs of the Venezuelan migrants as well as their concerns to the relevant authorities.