FLASHBACK?: Venezuelan nationals wait to register outside the Achievors Banquet Hall, Duncan Village, San Fernando, in June 2019.

Gail Alexander

More Venezuelans want to get legal status in T&T.

Five local entities and several foreign ones representing migrant causes have called for Government to consider reopening the registration process for Venezuelans and to stop deporting Venezuelans.

The call came yesterday via an open letter to Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

A spokesman said five of the groups are based in T&T representing Venezuelans: Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, CariMAN, La Casita, Hispanic Cultural Centre, CEDAW Committee of T&T, Ryu Dan Dojo Empowerment Foundation.

The others comprise local and regional groups which local entities say support their cause.

The letter stated their concern about the reported deportation of 93 Venezuelans on September 18.

The letter stated, “The deportation of asylum seekers runs counter to the basic international law principle of non-refoulment. As your government may be aware, just two days before this most recent deportation, a UN-appointed fact-finding mission on Venezuela found reasonable grounds to believe authorities under the command of Nicolás Maduro have committed grave human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity.”

“While we understand T&T, like all governments, is struggling to respond to the economic and public health implications of COVID-19, we’re deeply concerned just weeks ago your government also reportedly deported 165 Venezuelans.”

The groups claimed this was in violation of T&T’s obligations under international law. They were also disturbed by National Security Minister Stuart Young’s warning that people who helped migrants and refugees could face criminalization.

The letter stated that those deported to Venezuela are placed in quarantine centres, many of which are under police and military control and the UN had indicated leaders of some of these places “may be responsible for crimes against humanity.”

The letter noted that T&T’s amnesty registration process last year “went some way to providing Venezuelans with international protection and was an important opportunity for many Venezuelans to start re-building a new life in safety and to contribute meaningfully to T&T.”

T&T accommodated 16,523 Venezuelans then and their amnesty was extended to December.

However, more have continued to enter T&T illegally. Some detained have had the COVID-19 virus and have disappeared into T&T when attorneys get them released, Government recently said.

The groups’ letter however noted, “In light of the dangerous conditions in Venezuela, we ask you to urgently consider re-opening the registration process to ensure Venezuelans in T&T have access to legal status so they can contribute the many skills they have. We also urge you to ensure T&T complies with its nonrefoulement obligations, by protecting asylum seekers and others from deportation.”

A spokesman for the letter senders insisted T&T needed to conform to UN conventions it signed on refugee issues. But they admitted to being unaware Young said recently he’d started eyeing refugee law. They also called for government agencies to issue information in Spanish but they also agreed that networks in T&T helping Venezuelans should also guide them on mask-wearing, COVID-19 protocols and T&T’s laws in general.