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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

A coalition of human rights organisations from across the region have written to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, asking that 16 migrant children who were recently deported from T&T before they returned be immediately reunited with their families here and granted access to apply for asylum.

The 16 groups said the return of the young migrants to T&T gives the local authorities “a second chance to uphold its domestic and international obligations to protect the rights of children and to provide international protection for people seeking safety from danger.”

They are also asking that the children be screened to determine if they have been trafficked and given medical attention.

The groups said some 50 children have been deported this year, despite the fact that T&T is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires countries to “act in the best interest of children, refrain from detaining them according to international law, and prohibits deporting them to situations where they could face ill-treatment or danger.”

“We wish to remind your government that many countries have successfully established practices to ensure asylum seekers are exempt from entry bans in accordance with international law while also being screened effectively and given access to medical care. The pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to deny access to asylum and safety to those who need it most,” the groups stated in their open letter to Rowley.

“As indicated by 25 human rights organisations in a previous Open Letter to the Prime Minister, Venezuelans are fleeing grave human rights violations that a recent UN-appointed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela has stated could amount to crimes against humanity. This, combined with an ongoing humanitarian crisis, means Venezuelans will continue to seek international protection/asylum outside their country, even in a pandemic.”

The coalition is also calling for the T&T Government to find ways to grant legal residency for Venezuelans by re-opening the registration process, or passing national refugee legislation to facilitate compliance with international law.

The letter continued: “As other Latin American countries have done, we ask Trinidad and Tobago to find shared solutions and resources to respond to and help people fleeing Venezuela. This is Trinidad and Tobago’s chance to stand on the right side of history.”

The groups signing the letter were:

* Acceso a la Justicia

* Acción Solidaria

* Amnistía Internacional

* Asylum Access

* Aula Abierta

* Caribbean Centre for Human Rights

* Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz

* CIVILIS Derechos Humanos

* Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales (Chile)

* Comisión Nacional de DDHH de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela del

estado Táchira

* Derechos Humanos Con DR Corp

* Families in Action

* FundaRedes

* Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC

* Refugees International

* Ryu Dan Dojo Empowerment Foundation