Mon | Jan 21, 2019

UN expresses concern at Trinidad's deportation of Venezuelan asylum seekers

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 11:41 AM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 23, CMC – The United Nations has expressed concern that a number of Venezuelans who had sought asylum in Trinidad and Tobago had been deported to the South American country over the weekend.

“The United Nations is concerned for the welfare of these people and is in contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail,” said the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt.

At least 82 Venezuelans, including 29 women, were deported to their homeland last Saturday and the Ministry of National Security, in a statement said: “the Venezuelans were voluntarily repatriated…to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with the assistance of the Ambassador of Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago, Her Excellency Coromoto Godoy”.

It said that the Trinidadian 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, back to their homeland”.

“At that meeting, Her Excellency offered to provide transportation by both 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.

“This exercise was completed on the evening of Friday 20th April 2018 where some 82 Venezuelan nationals were processed with the appropriate travel documents. It is to be noted that all 82 nationals volunteered to be repatriated and were placed on the aircraft provided by the Venezuelan Government.”

Venezuelans have been leaving their country in growing numbers, many in need of international protection and seeking temporary refuge in countries of the Americas region, including in some Caribbean states like Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations and its local partners have encouraged the prompt adoption of national legislation on refugee issues, and are work together to support the Trinidad and Tobago government in its efforts to develop an efficient and secure asylum system, the UN said in a statement.

The Living Water Community ( LWC), a religious-based organisation that works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that it too 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”.

“We await confirmation on this. The guidance note from UNHCR on the outflow of Venezuelans advises that states apply a protection-oriented response in dealing with Venezuelans in a way that reflects an understanding of protection as a humanitarian and non-political act, and as an act of solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

“It asks that states find ways to facilitate access to their territory, award official documentation, grant access to basic rights and very importantly, apply a non-return principle to Venezuela,” according to Rochelle Nakhid, the coordinator at the LWC.

But, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi is quoted in the Trinidad Express newspaper Monday as saying that all those taken back to Venezuela had volunteered to return home, having been so informed by Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews.

Earlier this month, Gandhi-Andrews told a select Joint Committee of Parliament that an estimated 2,000 Venezuelans have applied for asylum in Trinidad 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 to the island by sea, some of them, illegally.

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