Icacos residents are appealing for proper toilets facilities to be provided for a group of Venezuelan migrants who have formed a community on the Icacos Beach.They have been relieving themselves in a hole covered with a plank of wood near the beachfront. Because Icacos is below sea level and the water table is about three feet, resident Sunil Sookram is concerned there might be a health crisis waiting to happen.
“We could be facing a whole lot of diseases from the bacteria carried by sewage and wastewater like cholera, shigellosis, typhoid fever, salmonella, and E-Coli in a few months as soon as the rains begin,” he said.
Sookram said more than 80 migrants live on the beach and on private lands along the peninsula. Others are hiding in the forests after arriving in the country illegally on pirogues.Another resident, Aneer Ojeer, said the migrants could not do better for themselves and deserved some help.
He said with COVID-19, residents are reluctant to take strangers into their homes, so many of the migrants were staying in abandoned houses, fishing shacks and under trees in the forests. They string up hammocks at nights and eat fruits and whatever they can find, Ojeer said.Councillor for the area Shankar Teelucksingh said there is an urgent need to set up two tents, eight portable toilets and two 1,000 gallon water tanks for the migrant families.He also expressed concern that improper waste disposal could trigger an outbreak of the disease in the peninsula.“We have about 80 migrants living in the Bilwah Trace and Lower Icacos area. The conditions that they are living under is horrid. No proper housing accommodation, no pipe-borne water supply and no toilet facilities. This is a recipe for widespread disease by the local and migrant community,” Teelucksingh said.
“They are using earth dug outhouses and it is getting into the water table which is very shallow at three feet in the Icacos area. Lots of residents utilise these shallow wells for washing and cleaning their homes. I also believe there could be an outbreak of diseases and cholera. These migrants are living in sheds and we have 20 people in one shed.” Teelucksingh called for a Venezuelan Reserve to be established in Icacos where the migrants could get aid and food.
He said rather than having them hiding out in the forests and squatting on State lands, a five-acre parcel of land could be given to the Siparia Regional Corporation to regularise the migrants.
“We could arrange for medical care and the skilled migrants could be incorporated into the workforce on a phased basis and they can also pay taxes to the State once they are incorporated,” he explained.
He noted that the Presbyterian Church of T&T, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, had committed to helping the migrants.
He called on the Minister of Local Government to make funding available to assist the Venezuelans with proper toilets and he called on the Ministry of Housing to put systems in place to prevent any outbreak of disease.
Contacted for comment, Minister Hosein said the Corporation could access funding through the Chairman’s Fund to set up toilets and tanks for the migrants. He advised that the Chairman Dinesh Sankersingh be contacted to offer assistance. Sankersingh said a meeting will be held next week and once the councillor makes a request, they will put things in place. He said it will be up to the Ministry of Finance to release the funds.
Guardian Media also contacted Minister Deyalsingh to see what could be done to assist but he responded saying, “I suggest you pose these questions to the County Medical officer of Health whose responsibility it is to attend to these local but important health matters.”
Efforts to contact MP for Point Fortin Edmund Dillon and Minister of National Security Stuart Young for comment proved futile as calls to their phones went unanswered.