Chair of the Catholic Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees, Leela Ramdeen, said she was brought to tears when she saw the pictures and videos of the deportation of 27 Venezuelan migrants last Sunday.
Ramdeen told Guardian Media she was disappointed in the way the state handled the situation since the group, including mothers and children, had matters before the court to allow them to stay in Trinidad and Tobago. Warning the authorities that the world is looking on, she urged that they do better.
“Who intercepted, detained or decided to send those 16 children and 11 women on two pirogues in the night. I understand the coastguards escorted them out. Now, there must be accountability and systems in place,” she advised.
Ramdeen added that while she does not want to get into the politics of the incident, the Government must be reminded that this country is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We have signed on to international treaties but, as our Prime Minister and Attorney General have said we have not incorporated it into our local laws because we are dualistic,” she said.
She made it clear that the church is not saying to the Government to open the doors to the 28 million Venezuelans looking to flee the economic hardship in their country. However, she stated there must be a “humanitarian way of dealing with them”.
According to her, “We need a policy that is drawn up with consultation of all human rights groups. We have a draft policy so update the policy, my God! And, make sure it contains clauses that will protect particularly our children too.”
Ramdeen said she was also saddened to see that the incident took place mere days after the world celebrated International Children’s Day.
“And, so soon after you put little children, a 4-month-old baby, not only put them on the sea to the elements and when we take them out from the shores, we put them back in police cells. The picture of the front page of the Guardian was really heartbreaking”, she lamented.
Ramdeen also noted that we are days away from commemorating Human Rights Day, which is on December 10.
She further emphasized that Trinidad and Tobago is a melting pot of cultures and people who have come from across the world to make a better life for themselves and their families.