BARNSTABLE, Mass. (WPRI) — Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced Friday it would provide new emergency shelter for the nearly 50 Venezuelan refugees who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday.
The migrants landed on the island unannounced, sparking questions about how the flights were organized and who paid for them. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told media outlets he sent two planes with migrants to Massachusetts as part of his state’s relocation program.
The Baker administration transported the migrants who chose to move to the mainland on Friday to Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC). As of Thursday, the migrants were being housed at St. Andrews Parish in Edgartown, with support from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Volunteers on the island rallied to provide clothing, shoes, food, and interpreters after the refugees’ arrival. The ordeal has garnered national attention, as state and federal officials scramble to find answers on the circumstances of the flights.
“While Wednesday’s arrival on Martha’s Vineyard was unexpected, the extraordinary response was not,” Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy said in a statement.
Baker will activate up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard who will offer support at JBCC. The administration will also provide health care, crisis counseling services, and legal services in Spanish for the refugees.
The base has served as an emergency shelter in the past, according to Baker. It is prepared to house individuals and families in a dormitory-style shelter. The state said families will not be separated.
“The island communities are not equipped to provide sustainable accommodation, and state officials developed a plan to deliver a comprehensive humanitarian response,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
JBCC is not accepting donations at this time, but the state’s emergency services agency is making arrangements to collect them.
“We are grateful to the providers, volunteers and local officials that stepped up on Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days to provide immediate services to these individuals,” Baker said in a statement. “Our Administration has been working across state government to develop a plan to ensure these individuals will have access to the services they need going forward, and Joint Base Cape Cod is well equipped to serve these needs.”
12 News reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office for comment and has not heard back.