Curaçao under fire for treatment of Venezuelan migrants

WILLEMSTAD - Curaçao accommodates one of the highest numbers of migrants per capita worldwide, with the UNHCR estimating that fourteen thousand Venezuelans are currently residing on the island without residency permits. Nevertheless, the rights of these individuals fleeing poverty and violence are often violated. This was reported by the Pointer program of KRO-NCRV in a special documentary. 

Lawyers and human rights organizations in Curaçao, such as Human Rights Defense Curaçao, report that local authorities regularly apprehend undocumented migrants and routinely detain them. Furthermore, parents are separated from their children upon arrest, without involving a judge or guardianship institution. 

The situation has been described by legal experts in the Netherlands as 'dire' and in violation of human rights. Alicia Blonk, a lawyer working on behalf of the human rights organization, emphasizes that "detention is used as the first step, while legislation dictates that it should be considered as a last resort." 

Just last year, 59 people attempted to reach Curaçao by sea, and although new facilities have been built to no longer house them among criminal prisoners, the conditions remain substandard. The court has intervened multiple times, ordering the release of migrants, but according to lawyer Blonk, legal assistance is still not guaranteed. 

Jennifer Sifontes, director of the Venezuelan community organization Venex, holds out hope for improvement under the new Minister of Justice, Shalten Hato. "While the minister considers a legalization procedure, the police continue to hunt down undocumented individuals on the streets," said Sifontes. 

The response from the Curaçao Ministry of Justice is absent, despite repeated attempts by, among others, KRO-NCRV to obtain comment. Similarly, there is relative silence from The Hague, although researchers such as Chrisje Sandelowsky from Leiden University indicate that the Netherlands must not turn a blind eye: "The question of whether to intervene is separate from autonomy. Ensuring human rights is a responsibility of the Kingdom." 

All of this underscores the urgent need for a coherent policy that respects and protects the rights of migrants, while time ticks away and the situation on the island remains critical.