SAN RAFAEL SHELTER PROJECT. UNHCR continues to support the self-sustaining livelihood activities of refugees and asylum-seekers under the San Rafael Shelter Project, led by implementing Partner Living Water Community. The shelter, which houses 19 adults and 13 children, continues to move towards sustainable livelihood efforts, which include the addition of a Cash- for-Work agricultural project involving six refugees and migrants, supported by UNHCR funding, who are expected to soon begin earning money from the sale of their crops. Living Water Community continues to meet the maintenance and repair needs of the shelter, while also working to improve the property through additions such as an upcycled playground for the children using car tyres and necessary infrastructure for the continuation of livelihood options. The property houses a diverse profile including LGBTI, indigenous Warao, as well as three locals who provide much needed support.
Notably, a general election which occurred on August 10 saw the incumbent government being re-elected to serve a second term, suggesting that the current government disposition toward refugee and migrant issues is expected to be maintained. Reports of new cases of COVID-19 increased in August, with an announcement made by authorities on August 15 that Trinidad and Tobago will now be regarded as having community spread of COVID-19. This led authorities to enact new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, including the prohibition of in-house service at bars and restaurants. The restrictions continue to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities for refugees and asylum-seekers as many saw their livelihood opportunities curtailed.
An environment of increased fear has arisen, due to recent instances of detentions, deportations, evictions and a generally heightened xenophobic atmosphere, including one instance of severe physical assault against a female Venezuelan asylum- seeker. Authorities have published images of COVID-19 positive asylum-seekers, in one instance referring to a registered Venezuelan refugee who tested positive for COVID-19 as “a risk to the safety of citizens”. In another incident, the images of female Venezuelan minors who escaped from a quarantine facility were published on social media by authorities. Health authorities have also reported on the number of “non-nationals” who are infected with COVID-19. Partners reported notable spikes in mood disorders due to this environment. UNHCR is aware of at least 13 asylum-seekers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and were quarantined at state facilities. Planning for the 2021 Refugee and Migrant Response Plan also commenced in August, with R4V partners coordinating the protection response for the next year.