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The Caribbean must unite on Venezuela

DIVIDED: CARICOM Headquarters

CONCERNS ARE growing about how the crisis in Venezuela may impact on the Caribbean region as a whole.

Recently, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that over 40,000 Venezuelans are now present in Trinidad & Tobago.

And according to statistics from the Geneva based body between mid-2015 and mid-2016, there was an 257 per cent increase in asylum seekers in the region.

Belize, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad were the top three countries for those seeking a safe-haven, but that numbers were also increasing elsewhere in the area.

There is no doubt that the Caribbean region has a strong record of offering assistance and protection to neighbouring regions in their times of need.

However, experts worry that if solutions to the developing crisis in Venezuela cannot be found the region will find it tough to adequately address some of the difficult issues that are likely to arise.

A sudden rise in the number of new arrivals to the Caribbean is likely to put huge pressure on the region’s economic resources.

While there is certainly a need for specific measures and policies to assist desperate people from other parts of the world in their bid to find safe havens from violence and poverty, Caribbean leaders must first focus on ensuring that their most disadvantaged citizens have utilities and social services, despite the growing pressure on resources.

Despite this, CARICOM has not been unable to sustain a strong united political and diplomatic response. Within the organisation it has become clear that there are divided views on how to respond to the crisis
in Venezuela.

There are also questions about the region’s ability to cope with a refugee crisis if it happens. This seeming inability of CARICOM to agree a policy response on Venezuela single position, again points to the difficulty of the region having a coherent foreign policy.

Yet there is more that unites this region than divides it.

CARICOM’s countries must recognise this and work together to tackle the issues that face them.

It can no longer be business as usual for CARICOM.

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