The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration said the capsizing of a boat carrying people from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago should be “a reminder of the extreme risks of sea journey, and other irregular-cross-border movements” taken by refugees and immigrants.
The boat was carrying at least 25 people, including children, when it sank off the eastern coast of Venezuela near the coastal town of Guiria over the weekend. Eleven bodies were recovered on Saturday followed by a few others on Sunday.
Venezuela has yet to provide an official death toll, but some reports suggest about 20 bodies were recovered from the sea.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants in a statement.
“We need to join forces to prevent this from happening again,” Stein said in the statement. The statement added, humanitarian organizations are on hand to support Venezuela to rescue those who may still be missing at sea.
Many Venezuelans are escaping the economic hardships in the Latin American country that have been compounded by lockdown measures because of the coronavirus.
Lockdown measures resulting in the closure of land and maritime borders is forcing refugees and immigrants to use unapproved routes to escape worsening economic conditions, the statement said.
Last year, three boats were reported missing between Venezuela and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Curacao, with the loss of at least 80 lives, according to the statement.
Stein noted that “urgent efforts are needed to stop smugglers and traffickers from sending people on these perilous journeys.”