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T&T holds talks with UN on Venezuela deportation issue

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago government Tuesday held talks with senior United Nations officials in a bid to “correct the misinformation in the public domain" regarding the deportation of nearly 100 Venezuelan nationals over the last weekend.

A statement issued by the Ministry of National Security said that Security Minister, retired Major General Edmund Dillon and Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi, met with the United Nations Resident Coordinator Richard Blewitt and Protection Officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruben Barbado.

“The purpose of the meeting was to correct the misinformation in the public domain, with respect to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago's handling of the voluntary repatriation of the 82 Venezuelan nationals to their homeland on Saturday, 21st April 2018.”

The statement said that both Dillon and Al Rawi “took the opportunity to once again emphasise the fact that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago respects the human rights of any person who seeks asylum in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Additionally, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago respects the right of any foreign national to voluntarily return to their country of nationality.”

The United Nations has expressed concern that a number of Venezuelan nationals who had sought asylum in Trinidad and Tobago had been deported to the South American country over the last weekend.

The United Nations system here Monday said it was concerned for the welfare of the Venezuelans, some of whom had reportedly sought asylum here. and Blewitt had indicated that they were in “contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail”.

The Living Water Community (LWC), a religious based organisation that works with the UNHCR said that it too had received reports of Venezuelans being deported.

Amnesty International in an open letter to Prime Minister Dr keith Rowley also expressed concern at the situation.

“Amnesty International has received information that suggests that those returned did not do so voluntarily, contrary to the minister's claims, but were presented with papers to sign, in a language they do not understand, stating that they would return voluntarily,” it said.

“If indeed those deported were forcibly returned without an individualised assessment or having the opportunity to challenge or appeal their deportation orders, without having their legal options explained to them in a language they understand and without access to their lawyers or UNHCR, the actions of your government have undermined due process, your government's own policy on asylum, and your country's international human rights obligations. This cannot be repeated,” Amnesty International said.

But the statement Tuesday reiterated that “the repatriation exercise” was strictly carried out on a voluntary basis, in collaboration with the Ambassador of Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago, Coromoto Godoy Calderón.

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago also expressed its commitment to treating all persons humanely and fairly and to upholding its international obligations,” the statement said, noting that “at the end of the very cordial meeting, both parties agreed to continue the ethos of collaboration and cooperation.

“The Government remains cognisant of its responsibility, to look after the national security interests of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” the statement said.

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