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Dear reader, during the last weeks a lot of opinions have been broadcasted in the media about refugees, especially from Venezuela. From a Red Cross humanitarian perspective, I would like to give you some information on our position and present you the facts.
As we are focused on helping the most vulnerable we have to acknowledge that people who claim asylum, that is: asking for protection, are amongst the most vulnerable as they have left their country who is supposed to give the protection. It is a human right to claim asylum or ask for protection. The host country, in our case the Aruban government, should investigate if a person can be granted asylum or should be entitled a refugee. A refugee by its very definition is a person who can’t be returned to its country as this may threaten his life. This is a very clear distinction between a refugee and an economic migrant. An economic migrant who crosses the border illegally or whose permit to stay is expired becomes illegal and can be returned to its country of origin, a refugee is protected by international law and cannot be deported.
On Aruba by law a person who claims asylum will get a temporary working permit and is allowed to stay for the period the government needs to assess the claim. As we currently have only 6 people on Aruba with such a claim there is no threat to our society. During the initial phase of this investigation these people do not have access to food, shelter or medical care and Red Cross provides that to them, although it is a government responsibility. At the same time if this group becomes larger we have to work on other contingencies. We are therefore in discussion with the government on this subject and have our own contingency plans as well how to use the means we have at our disposal. This discussion has been held at board and staff-level. It is clear that we have to help, and we do urge our volunteers to prepare themselves to dedicate some time to help as well.
On the international level Red Cross Aruba has a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and have had discussions with the Netherlands Red Cross and the International Red Cross in the Caribbean who support our actions, but at the same time indicate that we have to do it with our own means. This limits our options but does not prevent us to help people in need. I do count on your support when we call upon you in order to make sure that no human being is left alone, as this is what makes us a great organization which we all can be very proud of.
Michel La Haye