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UN agency issues refugee protection guidance for thousands of Venezuelans fleeing crisis-torn country

As deepening economic woes force thousands of Venezuelans to flee the crisis-gripped country, the United Nations on Tuesday issued guidance on treating the population as “refugees,” while the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the outflow into neighboring countries such as Colombia constitutes a “humanitarian disaster.”

“The movements are taking place for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, lack of food, medicine or access to essential social services as well as loss of income,” Aikaterini Kitidi, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

“While not all Venezuelans leaving are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while all may not be refugees, a significant number are in need of international protection,” she added.
Since 2014, there has been a 2,000 per cent increase in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum worldwide, principally in the Americas during the last year.
While in 2017 over 94,000 Venezuelans have been able to access refugee procedures in other countries, many in need of protection opt for other legal stay arrangements, which may be faster to obtain and provide the right to work, access to health and education.

Yet, hundreds of thousands remain without documentation or legal permission to stay in asylum countries – making them vulnerable to discrimination, trafficking, sexual abuse and xenophobia.
UNHCR’s guidelines encourage States to ensure Venezuelans have access to territory and refugee procedures.

“In addition,” Ms. Kitidi pointed out “UNHCR welcomes and calls on governments to adopt pragmatic protection-oriented responses for the Venezuelan people, such as alternative legal stay arrangements, including visas or temporary residence permits, as well as other regularization programmes, which guarantee access to the basic rights of health care, education, family unity, freedom of movement, shelter and the right to work.”

UNHCR applauds countries in Latin America that have introduced such arrangements, and hopes that costs and requirements are eased, where necessary to ensure accessibility.

“It is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there,” she underscored.
While Governments in the region have been generous in their response, host communities receiving Venezuelans are under increasing strain and need urgent and robust support, to promote peaceful coexistence and prevent manifestations of discrimination and xenophobia.

“UNHCR is working with Governments to address the protection and basic needs of the outflow,” she continued. “Consequently, UNHCR has developed a regional response plan that covers eight countries and the Caribbean sub-region.”

Meanwhile, WFP Executive Director David Beasley, who is in Colombia, said the outflow of Venezuelans into neighbouring countries constitutes a “humanitarian disaster.” He said it was catastrophic that around 50,000 people are now choosing to cross the border each day, just at one location – “and that’s the legal border crossing.”

Read the full story at: UN News

More information on the UNHCR Guidance Note on the Outflow of Venezuelans




The United Nations working closely with Trinidad and Tobago in addressing refugee challenges in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

UN - TRINIDAD and TOBAGO (22 Dec. 2017)

"Trinidad and Tobago's position as a leader in the Caribbean has been demonstrated through its commitment to creating a system of refugee protection" states United Nations Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Richard Blewitt. The United Nations recognises Trinidad and Tobago's commitment in its creation of the Refugee Policy in 2014, which is the first step towards the development of a national asylum system.

The Refugee Policy sets out a three-phased process to develop a national asylum system which, in its implementation, would acknowledge and support the basic human rights of asylum-seekers and recognised refugees as indicated in the Refugee Convention (United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees).

Although the Government, with the support of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), is progressing in the implementation of the Policy, the access to basic services needed to support a life with dignity remains a challenge for many asylum-seekers in Trinidad and Tobago. The UN recognises the frustration at the limited range of solutions available to refugee and asylum-seekers that has been expressed in the demonstration outside the United Nations House during the past several months. Accordingly, legislation must also be introduced that would codify the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, establish their legal status, and clarify the options available to them.

The implementation of the asylum-system and its supporting legislation will provide opportunities for refugees to integrate and contribute productively to the society in Trinidad and Tobago through the provision of legal documentation and access to work, education, and health services. Until the necessary legislation is passed, the UNHCR will continue to work with its partners and the Government to develop interim solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers here in Trinidad and Tobago.

"The Caribbean is not immune to the refugee crisis occurring in the rest of the world," says UNHCR Protection Officer, Ruben Barbado, "and we value the actions taken by States such as Trinidad and Tobago to honour the commitments of the Refugee Convention."  Such commitments  serve to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees so they can rebuild their lives and contribute to creating a stronger, more inclusive society for all. 


Press release issued by the United Nations in Trinidad and Tobago on 22 December 2017

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