Caribbean American Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke, has called for the Joe Biden administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to persons evacuated from the Red Zone in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the La Soufrière volcano has been erupting for more than a week.
Clarke first raised the issue on Saturday after visiting a volcano relief centre at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centre in Brooklyn, run by the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief Committee, Inc.
She later told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) “ I am calling on the US State Department to immediately allocate an appropriate level of funding to support our neighbour’s rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation, and I am calling on Secretary (of Homeland Security Alejandro) Mayorkas to designate TPS status for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and neighbouring islands who are located within the red zone”.
Clarke, who chairs both the US Congressional Caribbean Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Immigration, noted that since April 9, St Vincent and the Grenadines and neighbouring islands have been severely affected by the eruptions of La Soufrière volcano.
Clarke, who is also a senior member of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that more than 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since La Soufrière volcano began erupting.
She said that 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 through social distancing measures”.
The US legislator said 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.
She said access to clean water has risen to priority one as St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Clarke also noted that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that the volcano’s eruption had left the entire population of 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 for St Vincent and the Grenadines and neighbouring island migrants within the red zone,” she said.
“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. The US must comply with international legal obligations and allow all migrants access to the asylum system.
“As DHS (Department of Homeland Security) processes this request, I urge Secretary Mayorkas to consider the plight of our neighbours in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the neighbouring islands, living through this extraordinary environmental disaster while facing a pandemic, the likes of which our global community has never seen,” Clarke said.