“Overloading” caused sinking of migrant’s boat, says venezuelan officials

The captain of a fishing boat sails off the coast while participating in the search for victims of a shipwreck in Guiria, Venezuela, on December 18

 

Venezuelan officials have said that a boat carrying dozens of migrants to Trinidad and Tobago sank earlier this month because it was moving too many people.

By WIC News Reporter

In a statement on Friday, the country’s Interior and Justice Departments said the boat had 41 people while it was capable;e of carrying only eight people.

“The main reason for the sinking was overloading of the boat,” it said.

The department also said that people “did not have the necessary life jackets or safety equipment for navigation” and that the inclement weather conditions had caused large waves measuring two to three meters.

Venezuelan officials say 29 people died when the boat capsized on December 6, about 20 km (12 mi) from the coastal city of Guiria, in the country’s northeastern state of Sucre.

The victims’ loved ones told AFP news agency that 34 bodies had been found.

William Spindler, a spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Latin America, told in an email on 18 December that local nonprofit groups and Venezuelan officials had indicated that among the children’s bodies and a pregnant woman were one.

“We hold onto this tragedy that reflects the dangers that lead refugees and migrants to safety or a better life,” Spindler said.

According to the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 5.4 million Venezuelan refugees and asylum seekers seek asylum outside the country, facing economic and political crises.

The UNHCR says that since 2014 the number of Venezuelans receiving refugee status has increased by 8,000 percent. Most have moved to other countries in Latin America.

The groups said in a statement this month that 16,000 Venezuelans were registered by the Trinidad and Tobago government in May 2019.

“This is the second recorded ship away from Venezuela this year. The organizations said that in 2019, three boats were reported missing between Venezuela and Trinidad and the Caribbean islands of the Caribbean and Curacao.

The funeral was held earlier this month by residents of Guiria after some bodies were recovered. The AFP reported on 17 December that about 100 people had followed a truck carrying the coffin of Kristalinda Goitia, a 36-year-old teacher who was on board the boat with her 11-year-old son, Christiana Garcia Gotia.

Goitia, who was hoping to spend Christmas with her husband and possibly live in Trinidad, was buried with her son, who had been laid to rest there a few days earlier.

Human rights groups estimate that around 40,000 migrants have travelled from northeast Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago, after crossing the 20 km sea route known as the Dragon’s mouth.

Venezuelan officials have said of the “mafia” traffic migrants in that area.