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UNHCR and IOM saddened at deaths of refugees and migrants in shipwreck off Venezuela coast

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UNHCR and IOM saddened at deaths of refugees and migrants in shipwreck off Venezuela coast

15 December 2020
Trinidad and Tobago. the Gulf of Paria
View from a boat off Trinidad's north-west coast looking westwards across the Gulf of Paria towards Venezuela and the Bocas Islands between the two countries.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply distressed by the death or disappearance at sea of up to 25 refugees and migrants from Venezuela, including children, after their boat capsized en route to Trinidad and Tobago. According to reports, between 14 and 21 bodies were found over the weekend floating in waters near the Venezuelan coastal town of Guiria. Search and rescue efforts continue as there may be others still missing at sea.

“This tragic incident is a reminder of the extreme risks of sea journeys and other irregular cross-border movements undertaken by Venezuelan refugees and migrants,” stated Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. “Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. We need to join forces to prevent this from happening again.”

Humanitarian organizations are in contact with the Venezuelan authorities and are on stand-by to support as necessary.

The number of Venezuelans leaving their country has increased in recent weeks as lockdown measures across the region ease. With land and maritime borders still closed, these movements take place mainly through informal routes, exposing refugees and migrants to extreme dangers. These irregular border crossings have significantly heightened health and protection risks.

“Urgent efforts are needed to stop smugglers and traffickers from sending people on these perilous journeys and to protect refugees and migrants from exploitation and abuse,” said Stein. “Strengthened regular pathways are also needed so that refugees and migrants can access safety without risking their lives.”

There are approximately 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world, the vast majority hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In May 2019, 16,000 were registered by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

This is the second recorded shipwreck off Venezuela this year. In 2019, three boats were reported missing between Venezuela and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Curacao, with the loss of at least 80 lives.


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