By Kurt Campbell
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has confirmed that there are an estimated 22,000 Venezuelan migrants in Guyana, of which 30% are believed to be children.
While the majority of this number accounts for persons forced to flee persecution and conflict in Venezuela, a smaller percentage would include those who have taken a conscious decision to leave because of economic reasons.
The statistics also confirm that there are about 200 asylum seekers within Guyana’s borders; the stats were released amid observances to mark World Refugee Day.
During an interview with the News Room on Thursday, the Head (ag) of the UNHCR Office in Guyana, Suenanica de Rozario, said based on the work the agency has been doing in Guyana since it established a presence in August 2018, Venezuelans account for the largest number of migrants here. The UNHCR has a presence in over 130 countries globally.
According to the UNHCR Global Trend Report, Venezuela is listed to be among the top five countries in the world from which refugees originate. Rozario said there is a relatively large concentration in Region One but Venezuelans have also integrated themselves into host communities in Regions Two, Four, Seven and Nine.
Guyana shares a large part of its western border with Venezuela.
“They are all around. Venezuelan refugees and migrants are here in Guyana and they have settled in with the host communities all around,” Rozario, who is also the Registration and Identity Management Officer, said.
She explained that the agency’s work is mainly to support the government in its management of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, as well as, its response to other asylum seekers.
Rozario commended the Guyana Government for what it has done to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need of international protection.
“Our work here is to provide support to the government. The government has already established procedures and our role here is to mainly provide support and assistance,” she added.
The Registration and Identity Management Officer said the government has also been ensuring that these refugees and migrants have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The government has also facilitated easy access to the Immigration Department where refuges can obtain stay permits.
Last year, UNHCR donated housing units to the government to aid in its support programme during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The UNHCR’s work in helping migrants to re-establish life in Guyana is done through several programmes, including one working with children to learn English as a second language which was piloted in Region One.
There has also been assistance to the Immigration Department with the donation of a biometric registration system and other programs targeting gender-based violence, mental health and psychosocial support.
Another major project is the ongoing work with vulnerable women in the sewing and distribution of face masks to earn skills development and income.
“We thanked the Government of Guyana for having an inclusive approach to the refugees and migrants,” Rozario said.