Angie Ramnarine

The level of exploitation of Venezuelan migrants in T&T is increasing says Angie Ramnarine, co-ordinator, La Romaine Migrant Support Group.

“What we have now is a looming humanitarian crisis. I have been dealing on a daily basis with people who have been evicted from homes because they cannot afford the extortionist rents. These migrants present a readily exploitable source of labour. The levels of exploitation have increased. “Employers promise work and after one week, Venezuelan workers are not paid. Employers keep migrants working from 6 am to 10 pm in the night with nothing to eat,” she said at a virtual seminar on Venezuelan migrant impact on the local labour market on Friday night.

It was hosted by the Trade and Economic Development Unit, University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine.

Saying that the Government does not have a policy on migrants in T&T, Ramnarie pointed out that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country earlier this year 98 per cent of the parents of migrant children lost their jobs.

Mariano Browne, an economist and former finance minister who also spoke at the virtual seminar, said the Government must accept the reality that there are more than 16,000 Venezuelans in T&T and how they will be incorporated into the labour market.

“They are here. What are we going to do? The reality is that we know we have more than 16,000 migrants. That shows that from a policy perspective we are not prepared to face on-the-ground practical difficulties of dealing with it. There are Venezuelan doctors, teachers, lawyers, dentists, carpenters, the entire range of the artisan class.”

He said the T&T authorities have been speaking about penetrating the Latin American markets in terms of trade and Spanish-speaking Venezuelan migrants can assist in this.

Browne said that the authorities need to collect data on how many skilled and unskilled Venezuelans are in T&T and other data on their demographics.

Economist Dr Anthony Gonsalves, who also spoke, said that many local citizens have lost their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and he is not sure how many foreign migrants that the country can afford to take in again.

He urged the Government to develop a policy on migrants entering the country.