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UN Commissioner Michelle Bachelet asks to investigate the death of the 23 Venezuelans in the Güria shipwreck

The top official for human rights in the United Nations said Tuesday that the latest shipwreck off the coast of Guiria is one of the greatest losses of life involving Venezuelan refugees and migrants trying to cross the sea.

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Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner, asked the island to stop sending Venezuelan migrants back over the same dangerous waters where they arrived at the island nation.

The United Nations wants the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela and the administration of Keith Rowley in Trinidad and Tobago to, exhaustively and transparently, investigate the shipwreck that killed 23 Venezuelan migrants, including at least five minors, over the weekend.

The UN called on the Trinidadian government to stop sending back to Venezuela migrants captured at sea, a practice that violates the principle of nonrefoulement and collective expulsions.

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The two boats involved in the shipwreck were reportedly intercepted by Trinidadian authorities at sea and remanded to Venezuela at night and without an escort. Trinidad routinely sends illegal migrants back, both adults and minors, separating families and disregarding other international covenants on migrants, and so far, this year has sent more than 300.

The office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, urged this Tuesday, December 15, authorities in both countries to investigate the shipwreck that occurred on the coasts of Guiria, in the state of Sucre. Both countries need to “cooperate to protect the life and safety of migrants and refugees, as well as the detention of smugglers and human traffickers who send migrants and refugees on dangerous sea journeys,” the head of the UNHCHR Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday.

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The new shipwreck off the coast of Guiria is one of the greatest losses of life involving Venezuelan refugees and migrants trying to cross the sea to Trinidad and Tobago.

“It is important that the two governments coordinate and cooperate concerning safe migratory routes,” Hurtado said.

23 bodies so far

The number of victims of the two shipwrecks continues to increase. The bodies of nine men, nine women, and five children got found between the afternoon of Saturday, December 12, and December 15 morning by the Coast Guard.

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The process of identifying victims has been slow. The corpse of Daniel Garcia, 10-years-old, was identified by her slim 14-year-old sister, Daniela, on the day of her birthday. There was no adult available to recognize the young corpse: her mother, Cristalinda Goitia, was also trying to reach the island and is still listed as missing.

The record compiled in Guiria indicates that on Saturday, December 12, 11 bodies got found. The next day, people found eight more; on December 14, were two bodies, and this Tuesday another two.

The residents of the coastal town assure that all the dead are from there, Güiria. The governor of Sucre, Edwin Rojas, reported that 21 of the 23 bodies got buried.

So far, nine men were identified, but the identity of three is unknown. The other six were between the ages of 18 and 33.

Nine women are on the list of the dead, a list compiled relatives, and official sources. The list ends with five children between the ages of two and ten.

One of the ships carried 30 passengers. It is the third known shipwreck off the Sucre coast since 2019. The victims of the other two events are still all missing, and there were reportedly no survivors.

With information from Yesenia García, special envoy in Güiria, and writing by Jesymar Añez Nava. Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.

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