In recent years, five countries in the Caribbean have been hosting growing numbers of refugees and migrants from Venezuela: Aruba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. It is estimated that around 146,9001 have arrived by air, land and sea to date, including some Guyanese returnees in Guyana. Caribbean countries vary in terms of their geography, linguistic, legal and socio-economic backgrounds, which results in diverse local operational environments and humanitarian responses. Considering the small size or limited absorption capacity of the concerned countries, the increasing number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela has had an impact on their host communities. Through the 2019 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), partners have identified the priority needs for refugees, migrants and host communities. These are: protection, addressing gender-based violence (GBV), shelter, access to food, adequate nutrition and health care, including psycho-social support, as well as the provision of livelihoods and self-reliance opportunities.
For the first time, two Caribbean countries adhered to the Quito Process. The Governments of Guyana and the Dominican Republic participated in the IV International Technical Meeting of the Quito Process, which took place in Buenos Aires on 4 and 5 July, and signed both the Quito IV Declaration and Roadmap that were adopted during the meeting. The Quito Process aims to harmonize policies and practices of countries in the region, coordinate the humanitarian response and improve the enjoyment of the rights of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
At the 40th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) held in Saint Lucia on 3 – 5 July 2019, CARICOM emphasized its “stance of non-intervention, non-interference and to respect the sovereignty of Venezuela.” Head of CARICOM States reiterated the importance of resolving the crisis in Venezuela peacefully through dialogue between the parties.
A mission of the Coordinator for the “Working Group on the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees” of the Organisation of American States (OAS) took place in Aruba and Curaçao in June 2019. OAS recommended that both Aruba and Curaçao grant legal status to Venezuelans and ensure their access to employment, health care and education, and recommended the implementation of anti-xenophobia campaigns.
On 25 July, the UN Human Rights Committee published its Fifth Periodic Review on the Netherlands for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Committee recognized the challenges posed by the influx of Venezuelan nationals seeking international protection in the Caribbean constituent countries in recent years and expressed concern for the lack of legal frameworks governing asylum, the paucity of data relating to asylum-seekers and the conditions of detention in the constituent countries. The Committee recommended that the constituent countries introduce legislation governing asylum in line with international human rights and refugee laws and establish or strengthen their asylum procedures.
According to the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report published annually by the U.S. Department of State, Aruba and Curaçao did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking as set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA). While the report acknowledges the increasing efforts of Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, it states that these countries have also not yet met the minimum standards. Lastly, the report acknowledged the sustained efforts made by the Government of Guyana by increasing funding for victim assistance and identifying and assisting more victims for the third consecutive year.
In June, 2019 the Government of Aruba announced that it will extend the closure of the border with Venezuela for an additional three months and until an electronic “Advanced Passenger Information System” to screen Venezuelans prior to arrival in Aruba is put in place. In Trinidad and Tobago, the official port of entry of Cedros Security Complex, from where ferries from Venezuela were disembarking, remains closed to Venezuelans, even for those with documentation to enter.
On 26 July, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago began issuing registration cards to Venezuelans who had registered in the twoweek exercise that was conducted from 30 May to 14 June 2019. The registration cards will allow Venezuelans to work legally for six months, after which a renewal for another six months can be granted. Card-holders still require a visa to travel between Trinidad and Venezuela. Although the registration card is not an identity document, at least one bank in Trinidad and Tobago announced that it will accept it as one of two forms of identification needed to access banking services (savings accounts and ATMs).
The Government of Guyana continued to register Venezuelans, granting renewable three-month stay permits upon registration. To date, 9,356 Venezuelans have been registered. The Government acknowledges that they are not capturing all arrivals at the main entry points nor reaching the population in all regions, such as Region 8, a mining area. The Government is confident that with the implementation of the new biometric registration system, which they are expecting to roll-out in the upcoming months, more accurate data collection will be achieved. Internal movements of Venezuelans from border areas to the capital city of Georgetown continued to be limited to those who have verified family members there.
Following the announcement of the Dutch Government to provide EUR 23.8 million to Aruba and Curaçao to support the response to the Venezuela crisis, the Aruban Prime Minister announced that Aruba requested that EUR 3 million be dedicated to strengthening the national asylum authority (DIMAS), the Immigration authority (IASA), and the Coast Guard (Guarda Nos Costa), ensuring the implementation of immigration procedures and restructuring of detention facilities in compliance with international human rights standards. An additional EUR 2.5 million should be allocated to support education, health services and the Aruban Police Force (KPA).