“We will defend ourselves.”
This was the comment from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he again responded to mounting criticism with regards to this country’s handling of Venezuelan migrants.
During a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre yesterday the Prime Minister was asked what the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Tuesday could mean about Venezuelan nationals entering the country.
The Court overturned a high court ruling by Justice Frank Seepersad not to grant an injunction to halt the deportation of an 11 year old Venezuelan migrant while a constitutional challenge filed on her behalf stood before the court.
The Prime Minister said the government would comply with the ruling of the court but stressed that ultimately nothing had changed concerning the situation before his Government.
“The bottom line is the substantive matter was on filing a matter the that the Government was responding to appropriately under the laws of this country. It is still to be dealt with, the judgement now says it must be dealt with by another judge. So it is still as it was in the beginning,it is now,” said the Prime Minister.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young also reminded that the Government, despite Tuesday’s ruling, still had the authority to deport migrants.
“No court has ruled on that as yet. The current immigration laws are in place they are being enforced by Trinidad and Tobago. We do have the right to deport persons who have breached our immigration laws,” said Minister Young, “No court have said our laws are no longer applicable.”
The Prime Minister defended the Government’s often criticised handling of the migrant issue, noting that several other countries with maritime borders and significantly more land mass, had adopted similar approaches to migrants.
“They are doing it to us simply because we are small, and simply because they believe we cannot defend ourselves but we have been defending ourselves on the principles of our laws, the sovereignty of our nation, the interest of our people and the general common sense and good sense and good nature of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” said the Prime Minister.
“We have a migrant policy, some people don’t like it. But we have a migrant policy. It can be changed, improved, tweaked. We can add to it, we can remove from it but you have to respond to situations,” he said.
The Prime Minister said if the case had indeed exposed weaknesses or loopholes for exploitation it would have to be addressed before Parliament. He however repeated that legislation would be coming to make it “less attractive” for nationals to facilitate the illegal entry of migrants.