Fifty-nine Cubans who are seeking refugee status in T&T are living in deplorable and unsanitary conditions on a parcel of agricultural land in Warrenville, Cunupia.
They moved there after overstaying their time at a nearby warehouse provided by a businessman.
Last November, police charged them for blocking the pavement in Port-of-Spain after they camped outside the UN House.
On Monday, the Cuban migrants, most of whom have been seeking asylum to another country claimed their situation was being sidelined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Government. They pleaded for immediate intervention.
Three months ago, 87 Cuban nationals were arrested after they protested outside the United Nations office on Chancery Lane, Port-of-Spain. They were charged with obstructing of a free passageway and sentenced to two days in prison.
Following the Cubans' release, Sheik Lisha Ltd businessman Churchill Azad Akaloo opened up his heart and his Warrenville warehouse for them to stay for one month, but he later extended their time to 75 days.
Andris Moiset Gonzalez, one of the 59 refugees, who spoke on behalf of the group said they had to leave the warehouse on February 1, after overstaying their time.
"Mr Akaloo treated us very well. He even extended the time for us to stay and for that we are grateful," Gonzalez said.
With no place to go, Feroza Mohammed, 50, and her common-law husband Alfred Martin, 65, who live a stone's throw from Akaloo's warehouse came to their rescue offering them two lots of unused agricultural land from their one-acre parcel. One group of 28, mostly women and children moved into an apartment building.
Of the 59 refugees, 22 are women. The Cuban migrants' ages range from 22 to 65.
The couple who operates a shop in the community sells items daily to the Cubans.
"My heart went out to the refugees when they told me they had no place to go. I couldn't allow them to live on the streets. That would have been heartless," Mohammed said.
Mohammed said she has been using money from her pocket to maintain their guests who affectionately call her "Mother."
She admitted that the agricultural land belongs to Caroni (1975) Ltd which is located next to her home.
"I have been planting on the land for 40 years. Some of the produce that I reap is used to feed the Cubans," Martin said.
Toting mattresses and bags of clothes, 59 refugees moved into the parcel of land where they constructed a string of makeshift tents using tarpaulins and strips of plastic.
"For the past four days, this is where we have been living...under harsh and dirty conditions. We are opened to the elements including criminals. We have not been taking any chances as some of us have been standing guard at nights while others sleep," said Ernesto Estrada.
Estrada said he fled his country 18 months ago due to economic instability and political persecution.
Others have been in Trinidad for over three years without work permits and proper documentation.
He admitted their new refugee camp was unsightly and attracted unwanted attention.
They have no pipe-borne water and they use one bathroom and an outhouse.
Scattered on the ground were several mattresses and pieces of clothing.
Stacked in a corner was a small heap of grocery items donated by residents and church groups.
Nearby, an uncovered pot with red beans and rice was swarmed with flies.
There were also dirty dishes in a plastic sink.
When the Guardian Media visited the camp before 8 am yesterday, many of the camp residents were still asleep.
Some were seen drinking coffee while others brushed their teeth at the side of the road.
Estrada admitted that the conditions were not ideal but nothing more could be done.
On Sunday, someone donated several sheets of galvanise.
"We are going to pull down the tarpaulins and pieces of plastics and erect a sturdier structure using the galvanise sheeting to prevent us from getting wet and protect us from the blistering sun," Estrada said.
"We want asylum outside of T&T but everything is taking too long. The United Nations is not doing anything to help us. It seems as though we are on our own," Gonzalez said.
Akaloo did not respond to a message left by Guardian Media.
An official of the Cuban Embassy said they were not aware of the refugees' plight and had no official statement to issue on the matter.
"The Cubans who are seeking this asylum never came to the embassy for any consular service," an employee from the embassy said.
A representative of the United Nations in T&T said they are aware of the Cubans' situation.
"And we are monitoring it closely. That is our duty," she said.
- by Shaliza Hassanali. Photo by Abraham Diaz.