The Venezuelan bishops have expressed their concern for the risks to which Venezuelan emigrants, especially women, are exposed. More than 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.
Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation.
“The Justice and Peace Commission and Caritas urge the authorities in all branches of government to investigate, pursue, prosecute and sentence those responsible for human trafficking crimes,” the bishops said.
They also called for “guaranteeing the relatives of victims direct access and without any kind of obstacles to law enforcement and the justice system so they can present their cases.”
They also asked the authorities to provide the victims with “timely justice without any delay, as established by the Constitution and the different international agreements for the protection of human rights than have been signed and ratified by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
The commission warned that the vulnerable position of migrants fleeing from destitution could cause them to become victims of human trafficking.
“Migrants can be enslaved by 'the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs,'” they noted, citing a UN resolution.
In their statement, the bishops said that they met with relatives of the 28 people who disappeared in Güiria following the shipwreck of a boat that left April 3 heading for Trinidad and Tobago.
The relatives indicated that although the bodies of the victims have not been found, “the agencies in charge of carrying out the investigation have not given a timely response.”
“The Commission observes with concern the increase of this type of incident, not just in the eastern part of the country but also in the border areas of Falcón, Brazil and Colombia,” the bishops emphasized.
Another boat carrying 32 Venezuelan emigrants sank on its way to Curaçao earlier this month. Each had paid $400 for the crossing.
The bishops' commission warned that in the border areas there operate “criminal gangs that put in danger the life and physical integrity and dignity of women, especially youths and minors.”
This situation produces “enormous anxiety and despair” in the families, affecting the children who are left abandoned, they said.
They expressed their commitment to those affected, to whom they will continue to provide support in following up their cases, in order to obtain justice, timely information, and a determination of facts.
“Let us combat the sale of children, women and men as slaves for the purposes of begging, prostitution or forced labor,” they urged.
Some 1.3 Venezuelan emigrants are being hosted by Colombia, and some 800,000 are in Peru.
In a move to restrict the flow of immigrants, Peru mandated June 15 that Venezuelans have a passport and visa to enter the country; previously, only a national ID card was needed.