JENSEN LA VENDE
VENEZUELANS at the Immigration Detention Centre have taken to a drastic form of protest by cutting themselves in what they are calling a “blood strike”. Newsday was sent two videos of the detainees yesterday, one in English and the other in Spanish saying that they have been kept at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Aripo for longer than the court has ordered and want to be free.
In one of the videos, one man tries unsuccessfully to slice his upper thigh with a razor blade repeatedly. In that video, the claim is that the men are being transported from IDC to the Maximum Security Prison. In the other video, a bleeding man is seen seated and the narrator says the protest is because the men are being kept beyond the court-ordered stay. Detainees at IDC are kept there until they are deported and are not sentenced there by any court.
Content warning: The video below is graphic and shows self-harm.
Prisons Commissioner Gerald Wilson when contacted said that while some Venezuelans were temporarily housed at the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre in Santa Rosa in the past, there was no order for the South Americans to be placed in his prisons. He added that for such a thing to happen there needs to be proper paper work done authorising such a move and as far as he was aware no such orders had been given.
Communications Manager for the National Security Ministry, Marcia Hope said the detainees are mis-informed. She added that while she could not confirm that the detainees were given the correct information that the IDC is legally incapable of transferring them to prison, she believes this corrected information had been relayed. On April 11, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon reported there were currently about 90 Venezuelans being held at IDC. On April 21, 82 Venezuelans were repatriated, however, the Government came under heavy scrutiny. The Ministry of National Security claimed the group volunteered to return to their homeland while relatives said they were forced to sign documents they did not fully understand.
An estimated 40,000 Venezuelans are living in this country although the numbers seeking political asylum remain low, says Rochelle Nakhid, coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Living Waters Foundation’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees.