WILLEMSTAD - In the new report published today, Curaçao: Little improvement in Protection of Venezuelans, Amnesty International has found that the situation of Venezuelans seeking protection in Curaçao has not substantially improved since it published the report Still no Safety in 2021. Despite the small steps the Curaçaoan authorities have taken, they continue denying protection to Venezuelans and detaining them automatically, under inhuman conditions, including children.
For more than a year, Amnesty International followed up on the cases of four men and one woman whose stories had been included in the 2021 report and interviewed them again between December 2021 and October 2022. Their situation in the last year has not improved and in some cases has worsened, such as that of Yusmary, who remained in immigration detention for five months in 2022, or José, who, after he had been detained for almost a year during 2020 and 2021, still hadn't heard anything about his asylum request. "I still feel imprisoned, even though I'm not in prison anymore. I don't want to stay in Curaçao. I want to go to another country and seek asylum there," José said.
Main concerns remain
More than 7 million Venezuelans have fled the human rights crisis in their country, making it one of the largest forced displacement crises in the world. Curaçao, a nearby Caribbean Island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is one of the destination countries. It is estimated that 17,000 Venezuelans live with irregular migratory status on the island.
Amnesty International acknowledges that the Curaçaoan authorities have taken small steps to improve the human rights situation of Venezuelans seeking protection. They set up a Protection Procedure in 2019 and have improved the interviews to assess international protection needs. However, it is still difficult to access the Protection Procedure because the Curaçaoan authorities do not guarantee access to information and legal assistance, especially for people in immigration detention. Furthermore, not a single person has received protection since the introduction of the Protection Procedure, as authorities do not consider Venezuelans to have protection needs nor to be at risk if returned to their country. The Protection Procedure is used, in practice, as a vehicle to reject protection claims, which defeats its purpose.
There are still no open reception centers for people seeking protection. Although there are new "Foreigners Barracks" (the detention center in the Sentro di Detenshon i Korekshon Korsou), people seeking protection, including children, are still automatically detained without any judicial review, in breach of international human rights law. Automatic detention and inhuman conditions in the Foreigners Barracks, such as being imprisoned in a cell for most of the day and the lack of recreational activities, remain a deterrent for people starting the Protection Procedure or to follow it through.
Amnesty International's calls
"We see the steps the Curaçaoan authorities have taken to improve the human rights situation of Venezuelans seeking protection in Curaçao. But these aren't enough. They should step up their efforts and The Kingdom of the Netherlands should provide support for that," said Dagmar Oudshoorn, director of Amnesty International Netherlands.
Amnesty International calls on the Curaçaoan authorities to guarantee the rights of Venezuelans seeking protection. Authorities should set up and ensure access to a fair and effective asylum procedure that meets international standards. As a matter of urgency, they should end the automatic detention of people seeking protection, and immediately stop the detention of children, as it is never in their best interest. The government of the Netherlands should assess the human rights risks of the support they provide to Curaçaoan authorities and establish binding human rights benchmarks.