Sat | Jan 23, 2021

We are under assault - Rowley - UNHRO concerned about Trinidad’s ‘deportation’ of Venezuelan children

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Venezuelan nationals seeking refugee status in Trinidad.
Venezuelan nationals seeking refugee status in Trinidad.

GENEVA (CMC):

The United Nations Rights Office (UNHRO) Wednesday said it remained “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago government to “deport” 16 Venezuelan children even as the government there maintained that the “refugee” situation is as a result of the political stances adopted by the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS) towards the South American country.

UNHRO spokesperson, Liz Throssell, said the deportation came at a time when “an application was being lodged against” the children and nine adults.

She said that on Sunday, the group, which had arrived in Trinidad five days earlier, were placed on two boats and “escorted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard out of the country’s territorial waters towards the Venezuelan coast.

“The Trinidad and Tobago High Court dismissed their application as they were considered outside the country’s jurisdiction. The whereabouts of the group, which included children as young as four months, were reportedly unknown for 24 hours. We understand that the entire group returned by boat to Trinidad on 24 November,” she said.

“All refugees and migrants, regardless of status, are entitled to the respect and protection of their human rights. With regard to refugee and migrant children, states have a special duty of care – the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them,” Throssel said.

CHILDREN DEPORTATION

The UNHRO said that children should never be “forcibly deported based on their, or their parents’ migration status.

“The precondition to any return involving a child is that an independent and impartial decision has been taken, involving child protection officials, and that a return is a sustainable solution that will ensure the rights, welfare and best interests of the child.

“State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child must safeguard the rights of all children on their territory, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status.

“We therefore call on the Trinidad and Tobago authorities to safeguard the human rights of refugee and migrant children regardless of their status, including by ensuring access to due process and procedural safeguards, consistent with the principle of non-refoulement,” Throssel added.

But in a strongly statement on Wednesday, the Trinidad and Tobago government said it was not surprised at the unfolding situation given that the OAS “under its misguided (Secretary General) President (Luis) Almagro has been almost single-handedly responsible for triggering and fuelling the current Venezuelan situation”.

The government said that these public officials have virtually declared war on Trinidad and Tobago for having the “temerity to have not joined Elliot Abrams and President (Donald) Trump in forcing violent regime change in Venezuela.

“Trinidad and Tobago is currently under the latest assault, using nameless, faceless people armed with innocent children, to try and force us to accept their understanding of ‘refugee status and international treaty’ where a little island nation of 1.3 million people must be expected to maintain open borders to a next door neighbour of 34 million people, even during a pandemic,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said, insisting “this is a matter, not for the OAS, but for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Currently we have closed our borders even to our own citizens in this pandemic and would resist all efforts by others who are hell bent on forcing open our borders through illegal immigration,” Rowley said.

National Security Minister Stuart Young told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, prior to the return of the Venezuelans, “I understand the emotion and how people try to manipulate the situation.”