Grande Riviere fishermen and villagers are denying reports that Venezuelan nationals were transported to Grande Riviere Bay to gain illegal entry into the country yesterday. They also denied there were T&T Coast Guard boats and Immigration officers at the coastal village rounding up illegal immigrants who arrived in the village.
Rather, the villagers said police locked up six Venezuelan fishermen who anchored in the bay earlier in the day to seek shelter due to bad weather.
A fisherman who identified himself only as Stafford said Venezuelan fishermen, who were out with colleagues in 15 boats, had anchored their vessels around 9.30 am due to bad weather. He said this was a usual practice of the Venezuelans when there were such weather conditions and Matelot fishermen received the same treatment if they found themselves closer to the Venezuela coastline in such conditions.
Stafford said two men from one of the boats went ashore to get a part to repair one of their boats. But as they were about to make their way back a police vehicle pulled up, two officers came out, arrested the fishermen and took them to the Matelot Police Station where they were detained.
Around 3 pm when the Venezuelan captain did not see his men return, he and four others went ashore in search of the others. The captain later learned the other four fishermen were also detained by police when they went to the station.
Around 4.45 pm, Stafford said a National Security Helicopter landed on the beach, officers got out and went to the station. The detained fishermen were then escorted to the helicopter in handcuffs and taken away. Stafford said he and other local fishermen tried their best to persuade the police to release the men, explaining the circumstances under which they were there, but their pleas went unheard.
The Matelot fishermen said they were very displeased by the arrests and the subsequent reports which surfaced from another newspaper which suggested there was illegal activity in the village.
“They are good ones and we are positive that they are in no way connected in illegal activities, they are not like those pirates that operate in the South,” on Matelot fisherman said.
Matelot police confirmed that six Venezuelans were arrested and handed over to officers of NOC. They also denied the report that Venezuelans were going ashore in numbers after being dropped off by fishermen yesterday.
- by Ralph Banwarie