On the steps outside attorney Nafeesa Mohammed’s office yesterday, Gregoria Figueredo sat disconsolately. Her 11-year-old daughter was among the group of Venezuelan migrants deported back to their homeland via pirogues on Sunday after illegally arriving on Trinidad and Tobago’s shores.
She stared at her smartphone, hoping that somehow she gets news that her daughter was safe.
“I am desperate, very desperate. I am anxious. I don’t if my daughter has eaten or drank anything,” Figueredo said.
She was among a group of Venezuelan migrants pondering their next move after the court struck down a habeas corpus writ filed by Mohammed to prevent the deportations. It case was struck down after Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams ruled that the boats with the deported migrants were no longer in T&T’s jurisdiction as they had gone into Venezuelan waters.
“Please see it in your heart that they are children, they are vulnerable, they are defenceless, they deserve care. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t Trinidadians, if they are German, if they are Chinese, you don’t treat them like that,” she said in Spanish, trying to appeal to the authorities to ensure that her daughter, along with the other children on the boat, would be delivered safely.
“We are brothers,” she continued.
“We are different races yes but we are brothers, we all have blood, we all hurt.”
Most of the children on the boats were related to Venezuelans who are legally registered under the Government’s programme to work in this country. Reports state that the children were taken to La Barra Isle, which is located in Venezuelan territorial waters.
Venezuelan Pastor Eleizer Torres, who was also helping the group with the case, explained that in some instances, the families had hoped to bring the children to this country because of health issues.
“In Venezuela, it is almost impossible (to help them). They are going to die there,” Torres told Guardian Media.
Mohammed said she was surprised to learn the children were being sent back in such a manner, especially after they had filed the writ. She said while she understood the Government was intent on stopping a surge of migrants coming in from the South American country, a review of the approach was needed.
“They do not want to see a flood gate opening and nobody wants to see that happening, but each case ought to be looked at in its own merit,” said Mohammed.
“I think the time has come for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to revisit the policies and the legal framework that exist to deal with the influx of migrants.”
Mohammed said she hoped this case would be the catalyst for such a review.
“It’s still a humanitarian crisis that we are dealing with there, these 16 children and some adult women who are on that boat and the relatives are still trying to locate their whereabouts. And if you know, I’m hoping and praying that whatever it is, these children are able to be rescued and in the best interests of the children, that would have done some good will come out of this,” Mohammed said.