The Diocese of Georgetown and the Ursuline Sisters have joined other civic and faith-based organisations in Guyana to launch the Venezuela Support Group (VSG) to provide advice and assistance to Venezuelans seeking refuge from the deprivations and insecurity currently gripping their homeland.
The group aims to provide support in terms of informing newly arrived Venezuelans of the regulations and accompanying procedures; offering advice and help in regularising their presence in Guyana; providing assistance to contact family or other persons; providing information on social and welfare services which may be accessible; contributing to information-gathering initiatives and providing opportunities for Venezuelans to communicate with each other.
Other founding members of the VSG are: Amerindian Peoples Association (APA); Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA); Guyana Institute for Transparency Inc (GITI); Moray House Trust; Policy Forum Guyana and Red Thread.
Catholic Standard reported that the “VSG is currently in the process of establishing offices made available by the Catholic Church in the compound opposite the Catholic Cathedral in Brickdam.” The work of the VSG is being supported in the initial phase by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which is in the process of establishing a permanent presence in Guyana.
A June 1 statement from the VSG stated that the group has requested meetings with the Minister of Citizenship in order to brief the Ministry of the VSG’s aims and to establish liaison arrangements with the Ministry.
Among the group’s concerns is respect for the fact that Venezuelans in Guyana have documented their wish not to seek formal refugee status but to seek temporary renewable visas that allow them to earn money while in Guyana.”
“The initial focus of the VSG will be on ensuring that persons arriving receive information and assistance to secure valid visas to remain in Guyana and are not exploited financially or abused in other ways,” the statement stated.
The VSG acknowledged that while some consideration has been given to permit Venezuelans in Guyana to regularise their situation on the basis of possession of an ID card rather than a passport, “there has been no formal announcement by the Government of Guyana on the matter.”
The statement continued, “We welcome this development in general as protecting Venezuelans against exposure to detention, fines and deportation. Moreover, this step would also align Guyana with the recent appeal made by the UNHCR for neighbouring countries to adopt flexible arrangements of this nature.”