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(CMC) — The St Lucia government on Monday said it remains ‘extremely concerned’ about the ongoing political and economic situation in Venezuela after Trinidad and Tobago reported that a number of Venezuelans were entering the oil-rich twin island republic illegally and seeking asylum.
“Trinidad, Colombia, the rest of Latin America, have for the past couple of years been feeling the impact. Thousands of people, if not millions of people are migrating from Venezuela and as the situation continues to worsen, this becomes even a greater threat to the region and I am very concerned as to the impact here in St Lucia,” Prime Minister Allen Chastanet told reporters.
The Acting Chief Immigration Officer in Trinidad and Tobago, Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, last week told a select Joint Committee of Parliament that an estimated 2,000 Venezuelans have applied for asylum there in recent months.
The committee was told that in 2015, there were 29 male Venezuelan detainees, but one year later the figure had risen to 125 including 97 females. Last year, there were 45 men and 82 women. She said that on a weekly basis, between 150 to 200 Venezuelans come here by sea, some of them, illegally.
Chastanet told reporters that ever since his ruling United Workers Party (UWP) came into office over a year ago, security has remained the major priority for the island particularly as it relates to the ongoing situation in Venezuela.
“We are only six hours away by a fast boat from Venezuela, so we’re very vulnerable,” he said, expressing concern also at the “deteriorating” economic and political situation in the South American country.
He said that criminals appear to be doing what they want and people were using Venezuela as a transhipment point for drugs from Colombia into Venezuela and the Caribbean.
“We have seen a huge influx of drugs and arms associated with Venezuela,” Chastanet said, adding that the security situation in the hemisphere could be affected if the situation in Venezuela continues ‘unabated.’
Chastanet, who has long been a critic of the situation in Caracas, said that human rights were also being affected and that some were living in denial and pretending it is propaganda to suggest that there is a problem in Venezuela.
“People would not just be leaving that country if in fact it was just propaganda. There is a problem, and we are hoping that the government in Venezuela would recognise that there is a problem and part of that problem is when you go against your own rule of law and your own constitution,” Chastanet said.
He insisted that Castries was aware of the long standing friendship with Caracas, adding “their goodwill to us is not what is in question.
“What is in question is what they are currently doing. The impact it is having on their country and the security risk that they are creating for the rest of us,” he added.