Sat | Mar 28, 2020

T&T deports Venezuelan nationals, concerns over asylum seekers

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2018 | 10:33 AM
Venezuelans being deported from Trinidad and Tobago board the aircraft provided by the Venezuelan government.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – At least 82 Venezuelan nationals were deported to their homeland yesterday amid concerns that among them were people seeking asylum in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Ministry of National Security in a statement issued late last night said that 82 Venezuelan nationals, including 29 women, “were voluntarily repatriated…to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with the assistance of the Ambassador of Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago”.

It said that the government had held discussions with the Venezuelan ambassador on April 18 to discuss arrangements for the “Venezuelan nationals who were being housed at the Immigration Detention Centre, Aripo, to return to their homeland.

“At that meeting, Her Excellency offered to provide transportation by both and sea and air to ensure the successful repatriation of the Venezuelan nationals,” and during that meeting the diplomat had requested that the nationals being held at the detention centre “to process their travel documents.

The removal exercise was completed on Friday evening and they were processed and placed on a Venezuelan government aircraft.

But the Living Water Community( LWC), a religious-based organisation that works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that it had received reports of Venezuelans being deported.

“At this point we are unclear if this deportation extends to asylum-seekers duly registered with the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) as such, or who have expressed a desire to seek asylum.

“Pope Francis also asks us to find ways to welcome, protect, promote and integrate refugees, to acknowledge their rights and dignity as human beings, as persons forced to leave their homes, and as persons in great need of our protection. “

In its statement, the Ministry of National Security said that the Venezuelans who were being sent home comprise “nationals who would have breached this country’s immigration laws and those who have served time in the prisons and were awaiting deportation on the completion of their sentences”.

“These Venezuelan nationals were also allowed to leave the country for their homeland with no charges laid against them,” the security ministry said.

Earlier this month, Gandhi-Andrews, told a select Joint Committee of Parliament that an estimated 2,000 Venezuelans have applied for asylum here in recent months.

The committee was told that in 2015, there were 29 male Venezuelan detainees, but one year later the figure had risen to 125, including 97 females. Last year, there were 45 men and 82 women. She said that on a weekly basis, between 150 to 200 Venezuelans come here by sea, some of them, illegally.