In light of a continual increase in Venezuelans fleeing to neighbouring countries and beyond, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has released new guidance for Governments to address the situation of persons in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.
In a statement on Wednesday, the body encouraged states to ensure Venezuelans have access to territory and refugee procedures.
“In view of the situation in Venezuela, it is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there,” the UNHCR said.
It called on Government to adopt “pragmatic protection-oriented responses for the Venezuelan people, such as alternative legal stay arrangements, including visas or temporary residence permits, as well as other regularization programmes, which guarantee access to the basic rights of health care, education, family unity, freedom of movement, shelter and the right to work.”
On Friday last, nine Venezuelan nationals were charged with entering Guyana illegally and fined $30,000 each or 60 days jail after which they will be deported.
In January, another nine Venezuelan women were charged with entering Guyana illegally and fined $30,000 of four weeks imprisonment. The women told the court that they sought refuge in Guyana due to the ongoing economic crisis in Venezuela and are working to send money to their starving families in Venezuela. The Magistrate, however, ordered that they be deported after paying the fine or serving their prison sentence.
Though the UN body acknowledged that not all Venezuelans leaving are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, it said a significant number are in need of international protection.
The UNHCR said it has embarked on a regional response program to the tune of US$46 million to respond to the Venezuela situation. It was noted that works began with eight countries and the Caribbean nations to address the protection and basic needs of the outflow.
“In particular, UNHCR seeks to strengthen national asylum and other international protection processes and step up its activities to foster a comprehensive, predictable and harmonized response to the plight of Venezuelans,” the statement said.
As a result of the complex political and socio-economic developments in Venezuela, persons continue to leave their homes for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, lack of food, medicine or access to essential social services as well as loss of income.
There has been a 2,000% increase in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum worldwide since 2014, the UNHCR said.