Hidden voices: Curaçaoan photographer shines a light on stories of refugees and migrants from Venezuela amid pandemic
In a first exhibit out of Curacao to document the impact of COVID-19 over refugees and migrants, local Curaçaoan photographer Berber Van Beek invites audiences into the personal experience of many of those who remain in an irregular status in the small Caribbean island.
Among the entire selection are the stories of six Venezuelan men and women who had gone to Curacao in the hopes of rebuilding their lives in safety. But as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the world, they were swirled into desperation, hunger and poverty, alongside their host communities, and were forced to remain as Hidden Voices.
“There is a group of people who are forced to stay in the shadows, and who lack access to support because they don’t have a regular status,” said Van Beek adding how conscious she is of Curacao’s difficulties in supporting its own citizens. “But what our society doesn’t understand is the desperate situation many have fled from, even if it meant risking their lives in dangerous journeys,” she added calling for solidarity for all.
Like many of those portrayed in Hidden Voices, Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in an irregular situation are particularly at risk, and many have limited to no access to healthcare and national social protection and safety net programmes. Without opportunities to regularize their stay, especially during COVID-19, the majority struggle to rebuild their lives.
“A regular status would open the door to Venezuelan families who long to integrate locally and contribute to their host countries as taxpayers,” said Renee Cuijpers, Regional Deputy Representative for UNHCR’s Multi Country Office covering Curacao. “Countries in the Caribbean have taken several positive steps in supporting the inclusion of those forcibly displaced. We hope to build on these to continue fostering solidarity among refugees and host communities.”
Of the over 5 million Venezuelans who have fled rising insecurity, ravaging shortages of food, medicine and increasingly unattainable prices, nearly 200,000 have scattered across the Caribbean, where they hope to build a future alongside their host communities.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, works with governments and partners across the Caribbean to provide lifesaving support and advocate for the local integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
About the photographer
Berber van Beek is an all-round photographer and owner of Studiorootz – photography, who has a special place for projects related to sustainability and awareness raising. In addition to commercial assignments, her ideal goal is to use photography to portray the story of vulnerable people and make their voices heard.