Jul 28, 2016 News
Responding to questions about provisions for Venezuelans seeking refuge in Guyana amidst that country’s growing economic crisis, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, said yesterday that while the APNU –AFC Government is not against persons seeking refuge here, this must be done within the tenets of the law.
Greenidge was at the time addressing the meeting of Parliamentary Committee on the mandates, roles and functions of the Ministries responsible for the issuance of visas, work permits and citizenship. He was joined by Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix.
In response to questions on the issue, the Foreign Affairs Minister outlined the legal provisions for persons seeking entry into the country as refugees.
Fourteen Venezuelans were fined and ordered deportated by the courts on Tuesday. The persons were said to have entered the country in search of food and work. However, Greenidge noted that the Venezuelans were fined and ordered deported, due to the fact that they entered Guyana illegally.
“While we may empathize with the people of Venezuela, if they are found in breach of the law …The law will take its course.” he said. Greenidge said that while there are provisions for refugees, it is a process.
“Whether or not you are a UN classified refugee, or you would like to be considered a refugee, you still have to meet the requirements of the laws of a country.
“You cannot arrive in Guyana and set up residence here, without meeting the requirements of the immigration authority and expect to be treated as a refugee,” Greenidge added.
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, refugees are subject to a process of consideration. “You must make a declaration at the Port of Entry and then ask to be considered. You cannot arrive and expect citizenship automatically.”
Greenidge said, however, that the approval of refugee applications will not be automatically approved, since the nation must ensure that there is capacity and provision to accommodate such persons.
“The matter is one which requires the country to assess, whether necessary arrangements are available to accommodate refugees, or you can invite the types of refugee camps that are seen in Bosnia, Sudan and the like,” Greenidge added.
Earlier yesterday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon shared similar sentiments on the matter. According to Harmon, Guyana has a responsibility to ensure its territorial integrity is protected. Immigration procedures must apply to anyone entering Guyana.
“We have a humanitarian approach to the matter. We also have a responsibility to demonstrate that we are a warm, welcoming and hospitable country. Once faced with such circumstances we would not come down with harsh hands, but we ask that there is respect for the laws and for persons to come through the proper Port of Entry,” he said.
Amidst plummeting worldwide fuel prices, the Venezuelan economy was hard hit leaving thousands of nationals struggling to fend for basic necessities.
Some Venezuelans have opted to seek refuge in Latin American and Caribbean territories. Guyana was placed on high alert for persons seeking help from the neighbouring South American country.
On Tuesday, 14 Venezuelan nationals who fled their country, because of its ongoing economic crisis were fined and deported from Guyana for illegal entry.
They appeared before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan, in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, where they pleaded guilty to entering Guyana by sea and disembarking without the consent of an Immigration Officer at Eteringbang, Cuyuni River, Essequibo.
The nine men and five women who spoke through the aid of a Spanish interpreter, told the court that they were finding it very difficult to survive in Venezuela because of the economic crisis. The individuals explained that there is a shortage of food in the country.
Most of them told the court that they were here in Guyana seeking betterment for their families. According to the Venezuelans, there is a lack of employment opportunities which is making it hard for them to provide for their children.
At the end of the hearing, the Venezuelans were each fined $10,000 with an alternative of six days imprisonment.
The Chief Magistrate ordered that they be taken to the nearest Port of Exit upon payment of the fines, or completion of serving prison terms.
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