Wednesday 30 September, 2020

Professor: Fleeing Venezuelans could take refuge in Cayman

Slamming Caribbean states for having largely ignored the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, a university professor warned that it is very likely that fleeing migrants may make their way up as far as the Cayman Islands in search of a new life.

Sustainable Development Professor at the University of the West Indies, Anthony Clayton, told Loop Cayman that as the situation in Venezuela deepens it is likely that there will be more migrants flooding into the northern Caribbean.

“It is estimated that 4 million have gone already. But the real flood is to come,” said Clayton as he spoke of the Venezuelan exodus.

Clayton noted that while the northern Caribbean won’t bear the brunt of the impact of the mass migration - that’s the burden of adjacent states - the region will see a significant flow of Venezuelan refugees coming in.

It is a flow that has already begun.

Clayton noted that some adjacent states such as  Equador and Peru, which are getting close to 3,000 migrant a day, have already started to tighten their borders, making Trinidad and Tobago an easy target.

“Quite a few of them are going into Trinidad now. Trinidad is picking up 150-200 weekly,” said Clayton.

However, Clayton said that Trinidadian officials think the figure is much more than that, as many migrants have been landing ashore at night; so it is could be the case that many more are coming in than officials have knowledge of.

“If Trinidad closes the border they will make it to the next island. They will come up through the island chain,” said Clayton who added that moving through the region is not as difficult due to established human trafficking networks.

“We have already got stable networks of human traffickers in the Caribbean,” he added.

Many refugees will not stay in the country they first enter, Clayton noted that many are looking to move on to countries where there are more opportunities for them to make a life for themselves.

The Cayman Islands is a particularly attractive destination due to its robust economy and sizeable Latin population, made up of mainly Hondurans, who already speak the language of the fleeing migrants.

Clayton says that it is easy for migrants to move around and go unnoticed in countries that have a significant part of their population speaking their native language.

The professor further urged northern Caribbean states to spring into action as the problem was already at there doorsteps.

“Most of the Caribbean nations have pretty much ignored the disaster that has unfolded in front of our eyes in Venezuela. There have been few, feeble calls on the government to have dialogue with the opposition. We are far past that stage now,” said Clayton.

The problem won’t simply go away either as Clayton shared that by the end of the year inflation in Venezuela is projected to reach 1 million percent.

“We’ve only seen inflation like this twice before in history. In Germany in 1923 and in Zimbabwe in 2008-2009,” added Clayton.  

According to Clayton the situation is so dire that there is nothing people can buy with their money - it is worthless.

Clayton noted that prior to the situation reaching crisis levels, last year alone, the average weight loss per Venezuelan adult was 24 pounds simply because food was no longer available.

It is further estimated, according to Clayton that 90% of the country’s population is now below the poverty line.

“When people are starving they simply have no choice and people are fleeing accordingly,” said Clayton.

Spokesman William Spindler  from the UN Refugee Agency has called the  exodus of Venezuelans from the country, “one of Latin America's largest mass-population movements in history.”

More than half a million Venezuelans have crossed into Ecuador via Colombia since the start of the year and that the number is growing rapidly with some 30,000 entering in the first week of August alone.


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