2946099

Trinidad and Tobago has been getting a lot of negative press recently over the situation involving Venezuelan migrants who have been braving the seas to enter this country illegally.

The tempo on the verbal attacks from several quarters against the T&T government stepped up after over 20 migrants who left Güiria en route to T&T drowned.

There is a narrative being spread that the vessel carrying the illegal immigrants arrived in TT waters and was turned back by Coast Guard officers. But this has been strongly denied by the National Security Council head, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, the Coast Guard and National Security Minister Stuart Young.

It is unfathomable that Venezuelans are being allowed to leave daily, putting the lives of men, women and children at risk, to seek refuge in T&T.

While agencies such as Amnesty International and the Organization of American States, as well as the UNHCR, have taken the T&T Government to task for its failure to facilitate the migrants, no one can argue that the Government has done its fair share to help the thousands of Venezuelans who now live, work and have started families in this country. Many now have a whole new life because T&T, through the state and non-governmental organisations—including Living Waters—has been doing what they can to help.

To be clear, the crisis in Venezuela was caused by the imposition of sanctions by the United States, which does not recognise Nicolás Maduro as a legitimate president and supports opposition head Juan Guaido.

It will be interesting to see how the US-Venezuela situation develops under President-elect Joe Biden.

The Prime Minister made it clear to the world on Thursday that T&T is not against the migrants but cannot encourage everyone who wants to find solace in this country to do so.

Dr Rowley will go a step further on Monday when he meets with Venezuelan Ambassador to T&T, Carlos Amador Perez Silva, to discuss recent developments concerning both countries and T&T’s position.

One can only hope the discussion will bring a toning down of reports emanating from Venezuela that T&T is somehow responsible for the migrants’ deaths.

On Thursday, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Williams Saab said each migrant paid US$150 to a human-trafficking ring as passage. The boat’s captain, alleged to have a criminal record for trafficking people and drugs, was arrested, as was the farmer who kept the group before they left. More arrests are expected.

Something is amiss with these boats operating like taxis in the waters between Venezuela and T&T, bringing migrants illegally. This is not just about people trying to seek a better life but those who are running these rings must be brought to justice.

Those who condemn T&T must realise this is not about the Government. They need to focus their attention on getting to the root of the problem and work together to bring an end to a nefarious trade that has the potential to take many more lives.