In the midst of prolonged impacts of COVID-19 on the Caribbean sub region, and after months of restrictive measures, Venezuelan refugees and migrants continued to be disproportionately affected. Many face difficulties in re-engaging in stable income generating activities, and need support to cover basic needs such as shelter and food. Irregular entries in Guyana continued, exposing refugees and migrants to further protection risks. An increasing number of detentions were noted in Trinidad and Tobago, where 167 deportations of Venezuelans were reported.
Although Caribbean countries tried to keep contagions at bay through restrictive measures and physical distancing, government sources feeding the COVID-19 live tracking Worldometer indicated all Caribbean sub-regional countries saw increases in COVID-19 positive cases. Aruba had an additional 18 cases, reaching 121 cases. Curaçao had six new cases to reach a total of 29 cases. The Dominican Republic (DR) moved from 33,387 to 67,915 cases, more than twice the number they began with in July. They also reported 413 deaths. Guyana reported 413 cases, an increase of 165 infected, with 7 additional deaths and Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) also had an additional 39 infected in July reaching a total of 169 cases. Despite the rising cases, countries announced gradual re-opening of non-essential services and easing of some border restrictions to cope with economic pressures.
Aruba saw a progressive downgrade of restrictive measures; students preparing for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) resumed in-person classes while reported cases of COVID-19 infected persons with no recent travel history prompted concerns about community spread. Approximately 500 Venezuelans previously registered on the DIMAS website have not yet been repatriated. The US State Department 2020 report on trafficking downgraded Aruba for a second consecutive year from “tier 1” to “tier 2” and then from “tier 2” to “tier 2 watch list”, despite the government acknowledging the vulnerability of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
Curaçao re-opened borders with the European Union imposing new entry requirements for leisure travel between Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. As a result, inbound travel increased in July. Separately, given the economic consequences brought on by the pandemic, the government applied for a new ‘corona loan’ from the Government of the Netherlands, which could help the island address the major financial consequences.
Presidential elections in the Dominican Republic, formerly delayed by the pandemic, were held even with rising infections. The proceedings had high voter turn-out, putting an end to the 16 year mandate of the Dominican Liberation Party with the election of the candidate of the Modern Revolutionary Party. The country re-opened to tourists in July, requiring visitors to present a negative COVID-19 test result to have freedom of movement inside the country. The re-opening saw the service and tourism sectors operating at 100% in spite of doubled COVID-19 numbers, to remain competitive in Caribbean tourism.
Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Regions 1 and 7 of Guyana led the Government to implement further lockdown measures, blocking transit of persons to and from these areas. The lockdown was met with protests from residents in Region 1, the Moruca/Santa Rosa area. As businesses slowly re-opened in other regions, owners seemed to prioritize hiring host community members over Venezuelans. Refugees and migrants continued to enter Guyana irregularly while RMRP partners also continued receiving notifications of persons at risk of evictions.
After reporting no new cases of COVID-19 since April, Trinidad and Tobago reported new clusters of infection in July. Instances of xenophobia, discrimination and evictions were described to R4V partners and seen in traditional and social media. 30 security officials were arrested, having been implicated in human trafficking activities. The government announced its intention to prosecute individuals facilitating the irregular arrival and stay of refugees and migrants. A CARICOM study on human trafficking conducted by Dr Justine Pierre suggested strong trafficking links between Venezuela and Trinidad with a high local demand for sex and prostitution in Trinidad. Authorities condemned these acts and announced measures such as prosecution of individuals facilitating the irregular arrival and stay of refugees and migrants to further prevent irregular entry into the country while borders remain closed.