While Aruba, Curaçao and Trinidad and Tobago detected only few imported cases of COVID-19, Guyana noted a spike of 92 new cases reaching a total of 248 confirmed cases and the Dominican Republic continued to experience drasƟc surges, adding 14,531 more cases, reaching a grand total of 31,816 cases as of 30 June.
Countries in the Caribbean sub-region re-opened business sectors while maintaining physical distancing protocols, since lockdowns and confinement measures had resulted in severe hardship for host populations, refugees and migrants. Many Venezuelans lost their livelihoods and faced poverty, destitution, eviction and food insecurity as well as increased protection risks. Venezuelans returned to the informal labour sector, but their search for employment proved challenging in economies adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their vulnerability became evident to RMRP partners who were increasingly approached for assistance in food, shelter and health services. In general, in all 5 countries, governmental social programs were made available mainly to citizens and permanent residents while limited resources created gaps in processing applications for single Venzezuelans, and those without children. In this adverse context World Refugee Day was marked on 20 June to highlight the needs and difficulties faced by this populaƟon and showcase how refugees and migrants positively contribute to host countries.
In the Dominican Republic, given the increase in COVID-19 cases and the negative economic impact of restriction measures, the authorities announced that the state of emergency would continue only until 01 July. Curfew orders were amended keeping non-essential acƟviƟes suspended while malls and businesses re-opened in different stages. Authorities in Guyana came under international pressure to declare electoral results. More than three months aŌer elections day, final results had not been declared. Meanwhile, the country saw increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases, mainly in the regions of Aranka, Moruca and Santa Rosa, reaching 8 of the 10 regions and adopted restrictive measures. Consequently, numerous refugees and migrants became financially unstable, and were unable to afford basic needs such as food, rent, hygiene items and other essentials. In Hinterland, Regions 1, 7 and 9 which border Brazil and Venezuela remain closed and mining areas went into lockdown.
Aruba recorded 3 active cases of COVID-19 since receiving humanitarian flights from Colombia. Government offices and private sector businesses fully re-opened, yet the airport remained closed to tourists yet borders re-opened with few Dutch islands. Regardless, all non-residents were required to purchase compulsory ‘Visitors’ health insurance’ for COVID-19 medical assistance and to cover the costs of medical screenings or COVID-19 tests upon arrival. Although some Venezuelans returned to the informal labour sector, a high demand for assistance was noted. Serious challenges were seen in the housing sector, with a notable increase in evicƟon rates of refugees and migrants, some of whom were physically and psychologically harassed to move. Other Venezuelans started sharing accommodations to minimize expenses, abandoning physical distancing protocol while some ended-up homeless. Venezuelans who had registered on the DIMAS website for assistance to return to their home country were unable to return by the end of June 2020, due to the lack of clearance by the Government of Venezuela. Some having no means of supporting themselves protested outside the Venezuelan consulate in Oranjestad.
Curaçao recorded 4 new cases of COVID-19 during the month of June. In a context of profound economic downturn affecting large segments of host and Venezuelan populaƟons, the government of Curaçao reopened all business sectors, but kept its international airport closed for passengers from all countries apart from Aruba, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and the Netherlands. The pandemic resulted in ‘austerity measures’ with the government announcing cuts in benefits for civil servants. The impacts of the pandemic also leŌ 80,000 people, half of the population on the island, dependant on food aid. The ‘austerity measures’ were met with strikes by civil servants; demonstrations and riots ensued.
In Trinidad and Tobago preventive COVID-19 restrictions continued to ease with part of the service sector being allowed to reopen from 8 June, and restaurants restarting activities from 22 June. Amid these developments, many refugees and migrants remained vulnerable with reduced access to basic needs. For instance, some 100 Warao Venezuelans previously reported to be living in makeshift structures in Icacos, the southwesternmost point, coastal village in Trinidad, continued to be in need of basic assistance. The Prime Minister announced that Venezuelans previously registered with the Government in June 2019, would receive a further extension of their documentation until December 2020, allowing them to stay longer in the country. Separately, attempts to access territory via irregular means continued to be noted by R4V partners.