Guyana looking at measures to ease plight of refugees

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) | The Guyana government says it will put in place legislation to avoid people fleeing harsh economic and political conditions in their homeland being deported for illegal entry into the country. Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge told the Guyana-based Demerara Waves Online News that at the policy level, the government may want to see what can be done.

“We are looking, for example, at our legislation as it applies to refugees -- although in the case of Venezuela, these are not declared refugees -- but let me say to see what can be done,” he told the online publication.

In recent weeks, several Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans have been arrested for illegally entering this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country without reporting to an immigration officer or for overstaying. Greenidge said the Haitians and Cubans are citizens of the Caribbean “that we have general concern for and we agree and have acknowledged that we have to try and make them comfortable rather than feel unwelcome; we will do necessary”.

He said the country’s legal framework requires people to enter the country at authorised points unlike a number of neighbouring countries such as Brazil that allows people to enter at any point and then register.

The Foreign Minister repeatedly stressed that the new rules would not be confined to Venezuela where opposition forces are seeking to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Several Venezuelans have taken to the streets in support of the move to oust Maduro resulting in clashes with security forces and the deaths of several citizens. “We are not without compassion as regards any of our neighbours and I think as regards Venezuelans who find themselves in difficulties, we will extend to them and we will try to extend to them as much support as we would extend to anyone else in the region and in that sense I don’t think we would want to discriminate,” Greenidge told Demerara Waves Online News.

Last month, several non-governmental organisations here called on Guyana and other CARICOM countries not to send back Venezuelans fleeing their homeland, but instead register them to allow for their eventual repatriation when conditions in their home country improve. Taboola “I don’t think that at this point in time, you need to treat with Venezuelan citizens any more differently you treat with others. All, who come into these borders – if they are refugees or they are not refugees -- they should be registered and having been registered, they can decide…,” Greenidge said.