By Shena Henry
Once unoccupied, the Grove sea dam, East Bank Demerara, is now home to a growing squatting settlement, taken over by undocumented Venezuelan migrants, and some returning Guyanese.
After fleeing the neighbouring Spanish-speaking country in hopes of an improved standard of living, a group has settled along the shoreline, a short distance from the Neighbouring Democratic Council. Several makeshift dwelling homes have been erected along the dam, and life, as one would imagine, is far from perfect.
Returning Guyanese, Lilowtie Ramnarine, 52, has been residing at the squatting area for a year and two months with her granddaughters, ages 10 and 12, after living in Venezuela for over a decade. She explained that she is unable to work as she is undocumented- her papers were lost in Venezuela. While she and other squatters have received assistance in the past, it has not been on a consistent basis.
Her 10-year-old Venezuelan granddaughter, who knows very little English, still managed to express her concerns.
“People want water, light, to see TV, food, clothes, anything. But we no have food, we no get money,” she said.
The young woman said she and her sister are eagerly looking forward to going to school to read and meet new friends. Other squatters also stressed the need for the younger ones to be in school.
Thirty-six-year-old Ginacar Amaiz said that aside from the need for water and electricity, she wants her son to be gain an education. She explained that her main source of water is rainfall and during the dry season, she is dependent on persons nearby.
On the other hand, 16-year-old Carlos Manuel Joseph emphasised more than others, the need for housing and electricity. He requested the assistance of the Guyanese public, noting that during the rainy season he would have to endure wet mattresses, the direct result of a faulty roof.
In December 2020, the International Office for Migration (IOM) made a call for simpler systems to be put in place for Venezuelan migrants here to access work permits in order for them to be employed without being exploited and becoming victims of human trafficking.
In its bid to incorporate Venezuelan migrants into the local economy, the Ministry of Health has also been transcribing many of its COVID-19 related brochures and information to Spanish.
It has also been releasing the daily COVID-19 dashboard in Spanish. The Ministry of Education has also put systems in place to integrate children into the public schools. In September, the United States Government committed US$5M to Guyanese authorities to help the migrants who have fled to Guyana.