Dominican Refugee Fights to Stay Alive Amid COVID-19 Joblessness

Dominican Refugee Fights to Stay Alive Amid COVID-19 Joblessness

The number of refugees is at a record high worldwide and the Caribbean is no exception. And in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many find themselves further challenges to survive.

In a report by Guardian Media, a Dominican immigrant who has been living in Trinidad and Tobago for five years says he and numerous different immigrants are attempting to make due in the pandemic, even though they aren’t legitimately able to work.

The Dominican, Agung Marcelle, claimed that he contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for assistance to pay his rent and purchase food, however, he was dismissed.

Even though Marcelle said he was officially given granted refugee status recently. He said he financially provides for himself by doing house painting and yard work jobs. However, with T&T’s latest Public Health Regulations barring most economic activity that is deemed non-essential, his revenue stream has dried up.

“We do not have rights to work, so basically we have to hustle, get little jobs here and there, now that we are in a pandemic, because we are not allowed to work and we do not get National Insurance, we have to pay rent, we have to buy food, those with children have to support their children, how are we going to do that? Because UN cannot support us and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is not giving us any aid,” he said.

Additionally, Marcelle said he knows a few Venezuelan refugee person families who have been evicted and displaced because they can no longer pay their rent and that soon, he will be in a similar dilemma.

He conveyed an appeal to the Government to permit refugees like himself the option to work so they can uphold themselves.

“Put something in place so we can establish ourselves, because when we do a little hustle, because the Government says we cannot work, where the money going? The money going back into the circle, because we have to buy food, we have to pay rent, everything we have to pay for, so no money is going back to our homeland, what is the sense of sending money back to our homeland when we cannot go back to our country? The money is being used right here in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The UNHCR said there are more than 20,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with their organization, of that number, 86% are Venezuelans. And 1,050 refugees and asylum seekers were allowed access to remote education services

In April, 759 refugees and asylum-seekers were given food support by its implementing partner, the Living Water Community but the demand has dramatically increased, the UNHCR said.

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