HAVING last year granted Venezuelan nationals amnesty for a fixed time period in what was a highly-publicised registration drive which drew thousands, it is incumbent upon the State to set out in the clearest possible way any terms and conditions upon which registration cards are to be renewed.
According to Heidi Diquez, spokesperson for an organisation that aims to address the needs of the Venezuelan refugees and migrants, there is fear and uncertainty.
“Everything is so secretive,” she said in an interview with Newsday. “Some (with registration cards) are afraid to go (to Immigration) because they don’t know if they will be deported or asked to leave.”
Diquez asked whether criteria included reporting to the Immigration Division with a job letter or proof of an address. She also wondered what would happen to people who are not working as yet or who are yet to pick up registration cards.
In response to Newsday queries, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said, “The registration cards have been ready for some time and Immigration has been distributing same, including some recent mass distribution drives. The Venezuelans have a responsibility to collect their cards or face the risk of being detained for not being in possession of evidence that they are permitted to be here legally.”
The minister’s position is understandable. It’s only reasonable for people who have been granted conditional entry to fulfil those conditions. Otherwise, applicants would have simply manipulated and abused a process that was meant to represent a compassionate compromise.
But now it seems some Venezuelans are worried about the status of government policy going forward. And that is an entirely separate matter which relates to those who are duly registered and authorised to be here.
Without getting into the typical numbers game that surrounds this issue, it is not satisfactory to have some 16,000-plus people not knowing whether they are coming or going. Such uncertainty puts a strain on the human resources available to local businesses that have employed these nationals.
While we are a good few months away from the one-year anniversary for the registration process – which cost at least $5 million – it’s important for things to be spelled out sooner rather than later. The initial six-month period that was issued to registrants has also now elapsed and questions are rightly being asked about the next step.
We cannot have another set of confusion surrounding this issue.
The amnesty process, while not perfect, in its fundamentals represented a genuine effort to meet conflicting needs surrounding foreign policy, economic imperatives and the humanitarian crisis still unfolding in our closest neighbour. It would be a shame if we let disorder turn a good thing into a bad thing going forward.