Re-migrants from Venezuela claiming mineral-rich land must prove citizenship – Foreign Minister

Last Updated on Friday, 15 June 2018, 21:21 by Denis Chabrol

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge

Re-migrant Guyanese from Venezuela claiming land in Ekereku, Region Seven must be able to prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of immigration authorities a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The ministry issued a statement on  Friday noting the claims to the mineral-rich land is not a straightforward case. The statement came following a report in sections of the local media.

Cabinet has mandated the requisite ministries and agencies to investigate the matter, the statement added.

The ministry said while the government is committed to ensuring the rights of our indigenous peoples are respected, none of the persons in question has been able to prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of immigration authorities.

Without this proof, they are not entitled to enter Guyana without permission from the relevant authorities.

In such a case, there can be no claim to assets in Guyana since the ministry is unsure whether these persons are Guyanese or whether they actually hold Venezuelan citizenship.

The ministry also cited security and other legal issues arising from the persons claiming land where gold is being mined without proper documentation.

Guyana’s parliamentary bipartisan committee on foreign relations on Wednesday expressed concern about the welfare of persons arriving from Venezuela seeking refuge from that country’s deepening political and economic crisis.

The committee agreed to ask Minister  Greenidge and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix to appear before the next committee hearing to explain what is being done to assist those coming from Venezuela to settle easily.

Government member of the Committee, Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry preferred to await the the dispatch of a report to Cabinet and the Foreign Relations Committee. However, Committee Chairman, Gail Teixeira said there was no need to await a report to offer humanitarian service. I don’t mind waiting but there are people who need help.” she said.

Opposition member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Zulficar Mustapha told the Committee that he was concerned that adequate funding and other support was not being provided by government. He noted that the Language Institute was charging about GY$3,500 for the translation of a document, although many of the persons returning and seeking help did not have sufficient monies.

The categories of persons coming from Venezuela include Venezuelans, Guyanese and Venezuelans of Guyanese origin. Teixeira questioned whether the authorities knew if children returning with their parents were being enrolled in Guyanese schools,being  registered by the Guyana Elections Commission and issued Guyana’s national identification cards. “Is the government or any agency providing that kind of social support?”, she queried. Nigel Dharamlall, also from the PPP, has already expressed fears that the Committee’s work was “very suspect” and should be addressed. He asked that answers be provided about those applying for citizenship, the mechanisms for them to be included in the national database and if there is a system in place to allow them to register after the statutory deadline for continuous registration has passed,

Official figures provided by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in a letter show that between 2013 and 2018, there were about 15,539 arrivals from Venezuela, 15,062 left and 477 were believed to be still in Guyana.

Minister Henry said the presence of Venezuelans was “nothing new”, but Teixeira pointed out that “these are undocumented persons who were crossing the border”