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T&T deports Venezuelan nationals amid concerns over asylum seekers

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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

The Ministry of National Security in a statement issued late Saturday 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, Coromoto Godoy”.

It said that the government here 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, Godoy 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."

“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.

It is also important to indicate that the Venezuelan Ambassador, Coromoto Godoy was on site to observe the proceedings. Chief Immigration Officer, Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews was also present to oversee the voluntary repatriation of the nationals,” the Ministry of National Security said.

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.

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," said LWC.

“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.

"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," she added.

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.”

It said these were the people placed on board the military aircraft from Venezuela noting “additionally over the last two weeks members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, as well as Immigration Officers, have made several raids on the southern parts of the country at which time they detained a number of Venezuelan nationals who were in the country illegally."

“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.

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