Enhanced processing of migrants, legislation imminent as over 20,000 Venezuelan registered in Guyana

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
File Photo: Venezuelan families in their canoes along the Pomeroon River

Over 20,000 Venezuelan migrants were registered in Guyana as of June/July 2023, with the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) parliamentary Opposition continuing its calls for curbing the influx of Venezuelan migrants.

On Monday, Opposition parliamentarian Tabitha Sarabo-Halley posed questions to Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn on the Venezuelan migrants in Guyana. Specifically, she questioned how many such migrants had been registered as of June and July of this year.

In response, Minister Benn explained that over 20,000 Venezuelan migrants were registered by the authorities during that period. He also gave a breakdown for all the regions except Regions Five (Mahaica-Berbice); Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).

“For Region Nine, it was 1340 persons. For Region One, 10,671 persons for the reference period. For Region Two, 3255 persons. Region Three, 1114 persons. Region Four, 1215 persons. Region Seven, 4099 and Region Eight, 80 persons,” Benn said.

Benn was also asked for details on efforts being made to improve the system for processing migrants. He explained that the Ministry has been digitising records and moreover, legislation is likely to be brought to the National Assembly to give effort to a migration policy.

“In respect of the institutional framework in relation to migration, both the immigration department and the immigration services department have been modernised. Staffing has increased. The work that they’ve been doing are now, particularly for the immigration services department, is being put on electronic platforms for proper recovery of information from the databases.”

“With respect to the legislative framework, since 2020 we have not had a specific instrument or Bill placed in the Parliament itself. But we are working with issues related to the migration policy. Out of which, I’m sure, a Bill or Bills will be made in this Parliament,” the Home Affairs Minister further explained.

Benn further assured that at the Ministry’s level, they have worked assiduously to ensure migrants arriving in Guyana, are actually migrants. Meanwhile Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, when given a chance to speak, continued the Opposition’s calls for stemming the influx of migrants.

“On the migrant issue, we have to repeat. We need some form of control in Essequibo. We cannot continue as is. Mr Speaker, we have to curb the influx. Additionally, we have to put the procedures in place to ensure the proper thing happens,” Norton said.

Venezuelans have been entering Guyana’s territory in droves in recent times, fleeing harsh economic conditions in their homeland in search of betterment here. But the increased influx of Venezuelans in Guyana has sparked widespread public concern here especially as it relates to security given the heightened tensions between Guyana and Venezuela over the ongoing border controversy.

Only last month, Police in Region One (Barima-Waini) intercepted two boatloads of Venezuelan migrants in local waters at Moruca. They were incepted sometime around 18:30h at the Moruca Waterfront area on November 2, 2023, when one of the vessels stopped to buy ration (groceries).

At the time, Police officers intercepted the vessel and upon realising that there were Venezuelan nationals in it, contact was made with the Divisional Headquarters in Mabaruma. The officers were then informed that intelligence was received of two vessels transporting Venezuelans.

Based on that information, the Police officers teamed up with ranks from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and they went out into the Moruca River, where they intercepted the second vessel that was in the water awaiting the return of the other boat.The two Guyanese boat captains told investigators that they were hired to transport these

Venezuelans to Charity. This publication was told that the two captains along with the 19 Venezuelans were transferred to the Mabaruma Police Station, where they were processed and interrogated.

The foreign nationals were slated to be deported. In October, another set of Venezuelan migrants arrived in Essequibo in three buses and made a stop in Anna Regina, where they disembarked and were reportedly processed by the Police.