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August 18, 2017
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August 18, 2017

‘A farewell land’

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A coalition of over a dozen Catholic organisations and religious orders serving migrants and refugees expressed commitment in continuing to accompany Venezuelan migrants in defense of their fundamental rights and walking with them towards a better life.

They appealed to people and governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to welcome Venezuelans fleeing political repression and severe economic crisis.

In a statement issued August 2, the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Migration, Refuge and Trafficking in Persons (CLAMOR) and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) said while they support measures taken by some governments which favour the labour integration of migrant Venezuelans, they are concerned by the attitude of several countries that have not yet adopted a public reception policy.

“Our call to the governments of the continent is towards openness, not to be indifferent to the suffering of those who have left everything, to build bridges, to build a migration policy as a human response, just and fraternal.”

The Catholic Standard – Guyana’s weekly newspaper, published extracts from the statement on August 11.

The CLAMOR network stated that the situation which threatens the life and dignity of Venezuelans has forced thousands of people to leave, in a diaspora unprecedented in the democratic history of the country.

The statement revealed that in the first quarter of 2015, 9456 Venezuelan temporary workers entered Columbia, 5236 more than in 2014. In Argentina, in the first half of 2015, 2772 workers entered, representing a 61 per cent change compared to 2014. Chile stood out with 10,815 visas granted to Venezuelans from 2005 to 2014.

It also highlighted that some undocumented Venezuelan migrants are becoming victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery in other nations.

The statement said, “In Central America, the National Migration Service of Panama received 2475 residential permits until May 2016 of which 1708 were approved. In the last three years Venezuela has been the country with the most requests presented to the Panamanian agency.”

The coalition quoted statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which reported that the number of refugee applications for Venezuelans in the region has increased in the last five years.

“There has been a 228 per cent increase in asylum applications worldwide by Venezuelans. From being a host country, Venezuela has become a farewell land.”

Statistics provided by the Asylum Access Foundation indicated that in the last three years the migrant Venezuelan population has reached 2.5 million.

It continued, “It is becoming more frequent to see Venezuelans in the streets of our countries, mostly young people, as informal sellers, wandering the streets and even begging. The ‘arepa’ is becoming a symbol of the struggle of the Venezuelan migrants to make a living.”

The Catholic groups prayed that the humanitarian crisis plaguing the country will end and that citizens will be able to walk the path of peace as a result of social justice, freedom and integral human development.