Drenched, cold and hungry, 16 Venezuelan children and 11 adults who were deported over the weekend yesterday returned to Trinidad and Tobago’s shores after three days on the rough seas.
The migrants, the youngest a four-month-old baby, arrived shortly before 1 pm at the Los Iros beach near Erin. They were deported on Sunday via two pirogues from the Cedros port, mere hours before the start of court proceedings regarding their detention.
Venezuelan Daniel Marcano, who is registered and residing here in Trinidad, was among relatives on shore waiting for their loved ones. He said the boat had engine problems and the migrants never made it to Venezuela. He was accompanied by two other Venezuelan men whose wives and children were on the boats. Marcano was happy they had returned but was unsure what would happen with them or where they were going to be detained.
Some of the children played while others cried after they got off the vessels and were soon rounded up by police.
The four-month-old seen being breastfed during this time.
Fyzabad resident Torrence Farrier was at the beach when he saw the boats coming in around 12.51 pm.
“We just notice that this boat was coming in with these people and what really hurt me, as I said just now, is the fact that there is a three-month-old child on the boat and they had to pick up that child to bring that child here.”
He said the boat stopped a distance away from the shore and the adults came off and helped the children out.
“They were in chest-high water,” he said.
While this was happening, he said the migrants’ bags were thrown overboard. The boat sped off. He said they were cold and hungry.
“They were cold…It hurt me. That’s why I say mom, what it have to eat and I take the food and give them.”
He gave them a meal of chicken, rice and peas. He said he was hurt and saddened by the treatment meted out to the migrants by local authorities.
“Everybody looking for a better life and it is up to you to make the life that you want and in the case that you don’t do it for yourself, nobody is going to do it for you,” Farrier said.
“So they taking the chance to come here and make something of themselves no matter how small or how hard it may be. I believe that everybody needs a chance.”
He said people should always try to help others in pain, adding when they initially arrived there were no police or immigration officials at the beach. The police arrived a few minutes later. Before the migrants were loaded into a police bus, they held hands and prayed. They were taken to the Siparia health facility to be examined and treated if necessary.
During the habeas corpus hearing on Monday before Justice Quinlan-Williams, the state attorneys said it would not be possible to bring the migrants back to Trinidad as they were already in Venezuelan waters. The matter was then dismissed.
Nafessa Mohammed, one of the attorneys representing the migrants, said they were detained last Tuesday in Chatham and taken to the Erin Police Station where they were kept in a cell. She said the migrants were taken to the Cedros Police Station and that evening she filed a writ of habeas corpus. The matter was scheduled for Sunday at 2 pm but that morning she got word they were being deported. Mohammed said they informed the court and the matter was put to 12.30 pm. However, by then the Venezuelans had already been put on two boats and sent off.
Mohammed called for a full-scale investigation into who sanctioned the deportation of the migrants, particularly the children. She said the actions of the state violated international principles and standards. She could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.
La Romaine Migrant Support group co-founder Angie Ramnarine said the entire procedure was wrong. “I agree that there are too many people coming illegally but then that’s an issue of border security. They deported them before the court matter could be heard, is that normal procedure? Is that the way things happen? Something went awry.”
Information reaching Guardian Media yesterday was that the migrants would be processed and a decision would be taken about where they were would be kept.