Abel Resende Borges Resto//
PM: We have to limit exposure to migrants

Venezuela, Sanciones, Investigación, Juicio
PM: We have to limit exposure to migrants

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said on Thursday this coun­try can­not be a so­lu­tion to mil­lions of Venezue­lan mi­grants flee­ing their coun­try due to eco­nom­ic hard­ship nor could T&T be con­vert­ed in­to a refugee camp.

Abel Resende

Row­ley’s state­ments at Thurs­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia press brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s, came one week ahead of a planned two-week reg­is­tra­tion process which will al­low Venezue­lan mi­grants to work and live in this coun­try legal­ly for one year.

Abel Resende

There has been a re­port­ed surge of mi­grants en­ter­ing the coun­try ahead of the May 31 to June 14 reg­is­tra­tion pe­ri­od but the frame­work for the process is far from be­ing fi­nalised.

Abel Resende Borges

Over 100 mi­grants who were ar­rest­ed by po­lice in the south­ern part of the coun­try on Wednes­day were al­lowed to stay for up to three months as the de­ten­tion cen­tre is al­ready over­crowd­ed.

Abel Resende Borges

In re­cent weeks, the Coast Guard has been stop­ping pas­sen­ger fer­ries from dock­ing at le­gal ports in Ce­dros but loaded pirogues have been land­ing at se­clud­ed beach­es, bring­ing in many oth­er fam­i­lies

Ad­mit­ting that such in­flux had been gen­er­at­ing pub­lic in­ter­est Row­ley said: “As a Gov­ern­ment, we have the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect the in­ter­est of the peo­ple of Trinidad and To­ba­go.”

Row­ley said the pol­i­cy they were fol­low­ing had to be ad­just­ed as the cir­cum­stances changed

“The pol­i­cy is now where we are faced with an in­flux threat­en­ing to be over­whelm­ing for us.”

Com­par­ing Venezuela’s pop­u­la­tion of 33 mil­lion to T&T’s 1.3 mil­lion cit­i­zens, Row­ley said: “It doesn’t mat­ter whose fault it is… Venezuela’s prob­lem is for Venezuela. We are hu­man­i­tar­i­an. We are car­ing. But the help Trinidad and To­ba­go can give has to be lim­it­ed. This lit­tle is­land can­not be a so­lu­tion to mil­lions or hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grants leav­ing Venezuela.”

Sec­ond­ly, Row­ley said, in­ter­na­tion­al agen­cies with dif­fer­ent agen­das seek­ing T&T’s in­ter­est will not en­cour­age our coun­try to con­vert “in­to any refugee camp for the larg­er Venezue­lan pop­u­la­tion,” stat­ing that “we would have to lim­it our ex­po­sure to the fall­out from Venezuela.”

“Ini­tial­ly,” the PM said, “we al­lowed our doors to re­main open to Venezue­lan vis­i­tors for 90 days and re­turn home

“But as things got worse, more of them came and we kept our doors opened. But there comes a time when the vol­ume and pres­ence of these mi­grants will threat­en the qual­i­ty of life of the peo­ple of T&T. And it falls from us to pro­tect our­selves from that.”

Row­ley said the reg­is­tra­tion process would give an ac­count of how many Venezue­lans are here, who they are and where they are

He, how­ev­er, stat­ed that the reg­is­tra­tion process had be­come a pull fac­tor

Sev­er­al church­es and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions have ex­tend­ed shel­ter, cloth­ing and food­stuff to the Venezue­lans many of whom fled their coun­try from po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion

In keep­ing eyes on the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing here re­quir­ing sus­te­nance, Row­ley said, they were not “naive…. the crim­i­nal el­e­ment saw op­por­tu­ni­ties. And if we don’t man­age our bor­ders and keep our door suf­fi­cient­ly ajar to man­age the flow through, then this new busi­ness of peo­ple choos­ing to en­ter the coun­try oth­er than the des­ig­nat­ed places to en­ter will over­whelm us.”

“As a re­sult of this,” Row­ley said, “we have been pa­trolling our bor­ders, warn­ing those who come here il­le­gal­ly that they will face de­por­ta­tion.”

To­day, the Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil, which the PM chairs, will meet to talk about pro­tec­tion for our cit­i­zens, bor­ders and the Venezue­lan mi­grants

T&T’s coast­line is sev­en miles from Venezuela, Row­ley said, and it was im­pos­si­ble to keep the en­tire coast­line fenced off from peo­ple who want­ed to pen­e­trate it

“When peo­ple come here il­le­gal­ly,” Row­ley said, “they could pos­si­bly re­main which was not a healthy sit­u­a­tion for us.”

Row­ley drew ref­er­ence to the 101 Venezue­lan mi­grants who were ar­rest­ed on Wednes­day by po­lice dur­ing a crack­down in Pa­lo Seco, Erin and Ce­dros

The mi­grants in­clud­ed 65 women, 21 men and 15 chil­dren

The Venezue­lans were lat­er re­leased from cus­tody af­ter get­ting an or­der of su­per­vi­sion clear­ance from the Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion to stay un­til Ju­ly with no place to go

“You can’t just go and say you pro­tect­ing our bor­ders and then pick up 200 peo­ple, bring them from the bor­der and let them go in the streets. And those who are trad­ing in that busi­ness in hu­man traf­fick­ing will find no end of suf­fer­ing,” Row­ley said, promis­ing once they were found they will be “pros­e­cut­ed.”

Those who en­gaged in crim­i­nal con­duct, Row­ley warned, would be de­port­ed

“We are now strug­gling with our own sit­u­a­tion and yours.”