Rep. Clarke: People of St. Vincent Need Help from Volcano Crisis

 volcanic devastation of St Vincent and the Grenadines
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Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Chair of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus, has released the following statement regarding the emergent environmental crisis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines due to the volcanic eruptions at the La Soufrière volcano.

“The volcanic devastation of St Vincent and the Grenadines requires an urgent humanitarian response from our US government, and the anemic response of our State Department and affiliate USAID causes me great concern. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated due to the recent volcanic eruption. Plumes of ash and gas have suffocated the island, contaminating water supplies, spewing dense volcanic debris, called pyroclastic flows, have destroyed crops, bringing life and the economy of this island to a halt.

'Many of the displaced people are now living in less than 100 shelters that do not have the means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — an already emergent crisis in the region — through social distancing measures. Others have been evacuated to cruise ships and are awaiting further instructions. However, in an official statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against travel on cruise ships because the chance of contracting COVID-19 is greatly exacerbated,” said Clarke. “This is a humanitarian crisis that has not been adequately addressed by the US State Department or any other International Aid Organization. In fact, the United States has only allocated approximately $100,000 to address this emergent crisis, and USAID has only allocated $20,000. This funding is, simply put, a symbolic gesture and merely scratches the surface of the St. Vincentian people’s needs and does little to combat the catastrophic disaster that continues to unfold. It falls woefully short of our humanitarian capacity. It does not, in any way, truly reflect what we as a nation are capable of; the magnitude of this crisis requires more. It requires focused, competent humanitarian assistance commensurate with the crisis faced by the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

"I am calling on the US State Department to immediately allocate an appropriate level of funding to support our neighbor’s rescue, recovery and rehabilitation, and I am calling on Secretary Mayorkas to designate TPS status for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and neighboring islands that are located within the red zone.”

Since April 9th, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and neighboring island nations, have been devastated by eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the La Soufrière volcano began erupting, many of the displaced people are now living in less than 100 shelters that do not have the means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — an already emergent crisis in the region — through social distancing measures.

'Crops — including coconut, breadfruit, mango and soursop trees, plantain and banana crops, which comprise much of the island’s agricultural economy, outside of tourism — have been destroyed. Access to clean water has risen to priority one, as the Island’s main water supplies have been contaminated. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the volcano's eruption had left the entire population of St. Vincent, 110,000 people, without clean drinking water or electricity.

“With all of this in mind, I have written a letter to Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security urging him to assign Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for St. Vincent, the Grenadines and neighboring island migrants within the red zone. These island nations have direct ties with the United States, and many have familial ties within the Vincentian-American diaspora community of my district that will prevent any temporary relocation from becoming a stress on our economy,” said Clarke. “The U.S. must comply with international legal obligations and allow all migrants access to the asylum system. As DHS processes this request, I urge Secretary Mayorkas to consider the plight of our neighbors in St.Vincent, the Grenadines and the neighboring islands, living through this extraordinary environmental disaster while facing a pandemic, the likes of which our global community has never seen.”

TPS is a temporary status given to eligible nationals of designated countries present in the United States. This status is afforded to residents from some countries affected by armed conflict, or natural disaster allows persons to live and work in the United States for limited times. The secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) if conditions in the country meet statutory requirements regarding ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters (including epidemics), or other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country that temporarily prevent its nationals from returning safely. The Secretary of Homeland Security has the discretion to designate a country for TPS for periods of 6 to 18 months and can extend these periods if the country continues to meet the conditions for designation

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