MIGRATION: Venezuelan Boat People: a New Refugee Crisis in the Americas

The recent discovery of 14 Venezuelan refugees (so far) drowned on the coast of Güiria, eastern Venezuela, with at least three children among them, shows what the migratory explosion from Venezuela is producing.

In this piece, we explain why more and more Venezuelans are dying at sea, victims of human trafficking networks, trapped between the corrupt officials who profit from the business of getting poor people out of their unlivable country, and an unprepared Trinidad and Tobago where the Maduro-friendly government manipulates xenophobia to its advantage.         

The heartbreaking headlines we became used to reading about African and Middle Eastern migrants in the Mediterranean, and before them, the boat people from Vietnam or the balseros from Cuba and Haiti, are now daily news in Trinidad. and Venezuela.

With the collapse of the national economy, the residents of the Venezuelan coast, particularly in the states of Vargas, Sucre and Falcón, have seen their trades and income disappear. Coupled with the expulsion factors common to the rest of the country, the situation drives them to pay about $130 to a coyote (much cheaper than a plane ticket), and test their luck at open sea.

Awareness of these crossings grew in 2018, after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees established offices at Trinidad, a nation that had never before dealt with migrants and refugees. Before 2018, the number of Venezuelans in Trinidad was estimated at 40,000. Today, it’s around 60,000.

We have more stories covering the complexities of this side of the Venezuelan migratory crisis: 

  • In May 2017, three Venezuelan doctors took the chance, looking for the supplies they couldn’t find at home. Their boat stalled, sank, and they drowned, as narrated by Dr. Astrid Cantor.
  • In June 2018, Nina Rancel reported that three Venezuelan boats sank and at least 50 people perished. One of the survivors told us her exceptional story in July 2019.
  • The OAS Director of Social Inclusion, the remarkable Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian, went into detail about who the real victims are.
  • In March, Nayrobis Rodríguez gave us a clear depiction of what people living in the coasts of Sucre are escaping from.
  • Last May, Nayrobis also showed us the true face of human trafficking, with the story of a young woman from Sucre forced into prostitution.
  • The noxious dynamic between Trinidad and the Venezuelan migrants was described by Nina Rancel in November 2020, after 29 Venezuelans (19 children among them) reached Trinidadian soil, to be expelled and pushed again into the sea.

One of the most painful aspects of this narrative is how this happens in direct contravention of international agreements signed by both the nation supposed to protect its citizens, and the nation receiving migrants and refugees. Both governments, the Venezuelan and the Trinidadian, mostly pretend that none of this is happening and while they support each other politically, people’s suffering is a footnote to be comfortably ignored—unless we, all of us, everywhere, raise our voices to make this known. Please, read and share their stories.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On 12/15/2020 at 2:49 am

    Thanks to GOL for highlighting this !
    Asylum seekers, refugees are not economic migrants. Economic mignrants benefit their host countries USA a living example ! Guyana with its 800.000 pop can accept as many as possible economic migrants to help with its development 2021 and beyond. The new GT to Lethem project when completed offers great opportunities for Brazilian and Venezuelan and Guyanese in the development of Guyana.
    With the petro dollars 💸 flowing it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for guyanese at home and in the diaspora who may wish to return.
    One should always take the positives out of any
    opportunities/developments.
    Good luck to Guyana and Guyanese
    The future is bright !
    Go Guyana go

    Kamtan uk-ex-EU

  • Dennis Albert  On 12/16/2020 at 8:04 am

    Like the Middle East, who is moving in to take over the oil? Iraq and Syria were b*mbed into oblivion, yet American mercenaries and military contractors have made billions doing contracts in Iraq for example.

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