Curaçao still detains Venezuelan refugees | THE DAILY HERALD

Migrants held in boat.

“Trago girls” being arrested.

WILLEMSTAD–State Secretary Raymond Knops of Kingdom Relations informed the First Chamber of Dutch Parliament (Senate) last week that there are no Venezuelan refugees behind bars in Curaçao, but that is not the case. They are still handcuffed and locked up as illegal residents.

According to immigration lawyers on the island, Knops is being misinformed. “At least ten Venezuelans have now been detained who applied for asylum,” said attorney Maya Elzinga-Soumah. According to her, some have been detained for more than half a year, against all agreements.

The circumstances in which asylum seekers are held violate international law. “If my clients have to sit in court, they are transported by three or four prison guards and handcuffed and brought to justice,” argued Elzinga-Soumah.

According to the lawyer, these Venezuelans do not stay in the deportee barracks, but among the serious criminals in block 1 of the SDDK prison at Koraal Specht. “They wear the same prison attire and are subject to the strict regime of convicted criminals if they have to serve their sentences.”

That description about the way Curaçao treats refugees is in stark contrast to what Knops reported to the Senate. “What he outlined in his letter to the Senate is not what happens here in practice,” said the lawyer. “There are factual inaccuracies in his letter.”

   Knops wrote that Curaçao had developed a new procedure, which means that aliens who are found without residence permits are interviewed by the authorities to be able to assess whether they might be in danger if they are returned. “That new procedure is indeed there,” explained Elzinga-Soumah, “but the Immigration service continues to work with the old procedure.”

The lawyer gave the example of one of her clients, Eduardo, a 23-year-old man from Venezuela. “He has fled because he knows too much about true-to-government people in his city who murdered opponents of the Maduro regime. His life is in danger, reason why he fled in a boat to Curaçao last year.”

On February 14 this year, he was arrested by the Curaçao Immigration service. “He was subsequently put in prison among the criminals,” his lawyer says, and is still detained.

A spokesperson for Knops did not want to say whether the Netherlands will ask the government of Curaçao for clarification in this case. The Dutch ministry emphasised that answers to questions about refugees depend on the cooperation of Curaçao. In a general sense.

“If signals are received that the information provided may not be correct, we will naturally discuss these signals with the Curaçao government.”

Local authorities informed Knops that in 2019 (until August 1) 324 Venezuelan migrants without a valid residence permit were returned to their country of origin . In 2018 and 2017 these were 824 and 1203 respectively.

In addition, this year 52 Venezuelans objected to their removal. In 2018 and 2017 these were 16 and 8 respectively. There are an estimated 10 to 25,000 Venezuelans in hiding in Curaçao.

Fearing the Maduro regime and the disastrous living conditions in their country, thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Curaçao in recent years (Dick Drayer).

Source: The Daily Herald