Washington, Oct 6 (EFE) – The Venezuelan government’s decision to accept migrant deportation flights from the US again, after years of not doing so, was “independent,” a Department of Homeland Security official told EFE on Friday.
Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with the US in 2019, but has begun a tentative rapprochement with Washington in recent months.
On Thursday, the Venezuelan government announced that it had reached an “agreement on migration” with Washington after “sustained talks” between officials from both countries.
But according to Blas Nuñez-Neto, the DHS official in charge of border policy, Caracas made an “independent decision” to allow repatriations.
The official also said that his department is always “in dialogue” with counterparts in other countries to facilitate the return of people who have deportation orders in the US.
Increased Venezuelan migration north
This new measure to discourage migration to the US comes amid an increase in the number of Venezuelans attempting to cross the border with Mexico illegally.
In June, 11,506 Venezuelans were apprehended at the border, and in August that number rose to 22,172.
No details have been given on how many deportation flights the US expects to send each week, but Nuñez-Neto said his government is confident it has the “capacity” to return Venezuelans who “cannot establish a legal basis to remain” in US territory.
In turn, he added, the US has already identified “the individuals who will be part of the first flight” to Venezuela.
Legal channels for migration
Nuñez-Neto pointed out, however, that the US has opened legal avenues of migration for Venezuelans other than asylum, such as the humanitarian permit known as “parole” and the Temporary Protected Status.
More than 130,000 Venezuelans have entered the US through the parole program since its announcement one year ago, the official said.
Up until now, US authorities could not deport Venezuelans who did not meet the requirements to remain in the US legally.
However, as part of an agreement with Mexico, the US has been able to send a certain number of Venezuelans back across the border each month. That practice will continue alongside the deportation flights, administration officials explained in a call with reporters on Thursday.
Human Rights groups react
Human rights advocates have sharply criticized the decision by the Joe Biden administration to send deported migrants back to Venezuela, a country beset by a severe humanitarian and economic crisis.
“There is an urgent need to respect the principle of non-refoulement: that no person in need of protection should be deported. This decision is unfortunate,” wrote Carolina Jiménez, president of Washington-based WOLA, on X (formerly Twitter).
Humans Rights Watch also condemned the decision: “Venezuelans are fleeing a humanitarian emergency and persecution. Sending them back puts many at risk,” wrote Juanita Goebertus, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, on X.
The Venezuelan human mobilization is the largest in the Americas: some 7.32 million people have left their country in recent years, according to the Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants of Venezuela (R4V).EFE