…Opposition warns permanent settlement is threat to territorial integrity
Amidst warnings of a security threat, Guyana continues to accept Venezuelans fleeing their homeland due mainly to worsening economic and political turmoil.
In fact, by international estimates, more than 1.5M have left the South American country in search of better conditions, many of them have trekked over to neighbouring countries.
Guyana has seen an influx in recent months along border communities, especially in Region One (Barima Waini), promoting Government to announce plans to construct a homestead at Mabaruma for registered Venezuelans.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has defended Guyana’s acceptance, pointing that the country has tried to regularise the inflow by admitting Venezuelans who had passports, and tracking cases of suspected trafficking in persons.
“We were accused of allowing entry to those with only ID cards, which was not the case; but it is significant to note that a close ally of the Maduro outfit, Ecuador, is accepting Venezuelans with ID cards only. Peru, Colombia and Bolivia have all eased restrictions,” the Prime Minister stated.
The Prime Minister defence of the Government’s position is being made as the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has cautioned against the long-term settlement of Venezuelans. For decades, Venezuela has maintained a claim to Essequibo.
According to Opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, there are three types of individuals who will come through the borders into Guyana from Venezuelan – Guyanese who live in Venezuela, Amerindians who tend to move across borders seamlessly without passports and Venezuelans who are leaving the country.
According to Jagdeo, as it relates to Venezuelans, Guyana has an obligation to treat them fairly and in a humanitarian way.
However, he stated, “In the long-term, they will be repatriated to Venezuela, given the nature of the threat on the border and what a settlement on the border, with permanent residents from Venezuela – a settlement of that nature can pose a threat to our territorial integrity and arguments in the future.”
In his column published in the Sunday Chronicle, the Prime Minister said that the decisions taken by Government thus far are on ‘humanitarian grounds’. He recalled when Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix visited Guyana’s border areas where stranded Venezuelans were reportedly eating from garbage cans and sleeping virtually in inhabitable hovels.
“Ministers in the Health and Indigenous Peoples’ sectors went to locations where there were cases of measles and polio – diseases that have been eradicated in Guyana. They rendered prompt assistance,” Nagamootoo stated.
He pointed out that Guyanese cannot be unaware of the plight of refugees.
The Prime Minister noted that during ‘hard times’, Guyanese scattered almost everywhere.
“Wherever they went, and whatever they became, Guyanese made a success story of themselves. They became achievers from hard work, whatever the nature of that work,’ the Prime Minister noted.
He added, “We cannot curse the bridge that we ourselves had crossed, either to Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil and beyond our Atlantic shores.”
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