Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says “under no circumstances” will Trinidad and Tobago implement an open-door policy to migrants.
Rowley made the comment yesterday during a virtual conference hosted by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA) themed “Forecast for Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“As a small island with limited resources, we cannot have an open-door policy where persons come in their tens of thousands at will,” Rowley said as he addressed issue of migrants and the region’s approach to solving the crisis.
The Prime Minister said this country continues to control its borders and the number of migrants that it can manage best, given the current circumstances T&T faces.
However, Rowley said there still remains “a flow of illegal migrants into T&T,” warning that they will be repatriated if caught.
He noted, however, there are there a lot of Venezuelans in T&T contributing to the country’s labour force.
“But there is a downside to it, where there are some who may require assistance which we may not be able to provide,” Rowley added.
Rowley said given the hardship in Venezuela, this country had initially received a small portion of migrants from that country and accommodated them with a helping hand.
“Initially it was a small flow, which became a larger flow, whom we did register and allowed them to function without restrictions,” Rowley said.
Noting that just over 16,000 Venezuelans were registered to work legally here during a Government exercise last year, Rowley said for small island like T&T that figure was a lot. He added, however, that most of the registered Venezuelans are gainfully employed and provide skills to this country.
“And while it is not as comfortable as they would like and we would like because of the experiences we are having with COVID, we have opened our doors and we are a humane neighbour and our neighbourly relation with Venezuela continues,” the PM reiterated.
The PM’s comment came against the backdrop of recent criticism by several entities, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, Caribbean Centre for Human Rights and the CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago, over T&T’s continued repatriation of Venezuelans caught in T&T illegally.