Flashback May 2020: Venezuelan nationals leave with hampers during the Ash-Nad Foundation’s COVID-19 food drive at the Hermitage Masjid in Hermitage.

Amnesty International yesterday joined the list of foreign bodies condemning Trinidad and Tobago of its handling on the Venezuela migrant issue, accusing the Government not focusing enough on the struggles of the migrants.

In a statement, the body said T&T authorities had failed to condemn the “massive human rights violations in Venezuela” and was instead more focused on protecting its own national security.

In fact, Amnesty International said instead of finding ways to fulfil its human rights commitments, T&T “continues to hide behind the excuse that it has no national refugee legislation.”

The group highlighted a photograph featuring a group of 16 Venezuelan nationals who were detained for illegally entering T&T, in which a baby was kept behind bars.

“Can a baby really be a “criminal?” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has since granted some of the children now returned precautionary measures—a form of protection for imminent harm,” the group said.

According to Amnesty International, on Sunday, it began to receive reports of another shipwreck off the coast of Venezuela, one of several over the past years. The group said while information was still unclear about what exactly happened with that wreckage, their initial information suggested that between 14 and 21 children and adults are either dead or are missing.

“Since our visit in February, we have received consistent reports that Venezuelans have continued to flee. The mass human rights violations and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela don’t end with a pandemic,” Amnesty International said.

“And while, understandably, Trinidad and Tobago want to take measures to prevent COVID-19, good practices from other countries show it is entirely possible to keep access to asylum open while also following strict health protocols.”

The group said that it wrote to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asking for his Government to “recognise the gravity of the human rights violations Venezuelans are fleeing and to find ways to provide protection.”

“Whether that be by opening another “amnesty”—as the Government did in 2019—or passing refugee legislation that would guide immigration officials and judges on how to deal with such cases,” the group said.

To date, the group said they have had no response to either of our letters.