Trying to reach terra firma

Social economic factors dictate the migration between islands and countries in the Caribbean. According to official UN sources,  the migrant population continues to grow each year, and we are said to have about 16.000 migrants living among us, most of them working, in the grey economy.

People in the Caribbean have always moved around, attempting to relocate to better, higher hunting grounds because of various reasons, mostly the economic situation in their homeland, violations of human rights and discrimination suffered, banana-republic government instability, and generally tough living conditions, they were trying to escape.

I have in the past talked about the hardships endured by this migrant segment of our population that just wants to work, have access to basic services and contribute to the island’s economic development and wellbeing, by feeding their families, in a respectful, safe environment.

Those who live here in the shadow, are the lucky ones. Many don’t make it. A recent report by El Nacional a media outlet in Venezuela, stated that in 2022, 48 individuals died and 11 disappeared at sea, attempting to get to Aruba, Bonaire or Curaçao, by boat.

The same report also revealed that in 2022, the authorities confiscated 29.4 tons of cocaine, 5.1 tons of marijuana, and 13 firearms, which attempted to land on the islands, illegally.

The numbers were quoted in a Caribbean Coast Guard bulletin,  published in May. The bulletin was the source of information about the dead and missing.

Between January and December 2022, our own Coast Guard detained 170 people, of various unreported nationalities, attempting to get into the three islands off the coast of Venezuela.

The Dutch Coast Guard also confirms these numbers, and reports that human trafficking and smuggling cases in the area increased in comparison to the numbers reported in 2021.

SAR, a Dutch Search & Rescue operating in the area, designed to keep track of the illegal traffic between the islands, observed a very vigilant protocol during the pandemic, to help curb the spread of the virus in the area. Their effort to patrol the Caribbean is supported by the US, France, UK, and the International Organizations for Migration. For the entire region, they report 287 missing migrants, in 2022.

With the first phase of the opening of the border with Venezuela which started this week — the first boat with fresh produce arrived at out shore — the local Coast Guard is aware that its work just got more complicated in view of the still unstable situation in Venezuela.

In general, in order to patrol our nautical borders, the Dutch kingdom foots 87.8% of the bill, the rest is paid by the Caribbean islands’ governments. The job of patrolling is big, and we all rely on the Dutch to support three centers in Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten.





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June 02, 2023
Rona Coster