RADHICA DE SILVA
As the search continues for passengers feared dead in a boatwreck in Venezuela’s Delta Amacuro, international human rights agencies have called for safer pathways for migrants fleeing Venezuela’s socio-economic crisis.
Venezuelan authorities have reported that six passengers aboard a vessel, which capsized in a strait of the sea known as Boca de Serpiente (Snake’s Mouth) around 4 am last Thursday, have been confirmed dead.
Seven survivors were rescued and a dozen more remain missing.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have all expressed sadness over the incident.
In a press release yesterday, Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, said, “The waters of the Caribbean Sea continue to claim the lives of Venezuelans.
“As the conditions in the country continue to deteriorate—all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic—people continue to undertake life-threatening journeys.”
He added, “Shipwrecks, tragic deaths at border crossings and further suffering are avoidable, but only if immediate and concerted international action is mobilised to find pragmatic solutions that put saving lives and protecting human rights at the forefront of any response.”
Stein also said, “The establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of protection-sensitive entry systems and adequate reception mechanisms, can prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.”
Both the UNHCR and IOM reiterated their readiness to lend support and technical expertise in exploring practical solutions to help migrants.
“UNHCR and IOM, as co-leaders of the Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), work with at least 24 other partners and governments across the Caribbean to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in the sub-region,” the statement said.
More than 200,000 Venezuelans have been living in the Caribbean, having fled their homeland to escape starvation and destitution, it said. There are over five million Venezuelan refugees and migrants around the world.
Meanwhile, according to Venezuela’s media outlet Tane Tanae Delta, the governor of Delta Amacuro state Lizeta Hernández said yesterday that the armed forces were continuing the search for ten of the missing passengers.
The report said six people have been confirmed dead and seven people have been rescued.
“We will not hide anything and the guilty must pay with the full weight of the law,” Hernández said.
The boatload of over 25 migrants had been bound for Trinidad but capsized in the Boca around 4 am on Thursday. A Venezuelan commercial ship operating in the Boca, a strip of water that separates Venezuela from Trinidad, rescued some of the survivors.
Others swam for long distances before being picked up by other boats. It is uncertain whether any made it to Trinidad’s shores. However, one body washed ashore at Fullarton Beach on Sunday.
On December 6 last year, 29 people died when a boat sank about 20 km (12 miles) from the coastal town of Guiria in the country’s northeastern state of Sucre. They too had been heading to Trinidad in search of a better life.