ECONOMIST Dr Roger Hosein says, if Venezuelans are allowed to continue entering Trinidad and Tobago unabated, this country could have 150,000 illegal Spanish-speaking residents here in one year’s time.
“At the pace I am seeing the Venezuelan illegal immigrants come to Trinidad, I would not be surprise if it continues, by next year we will see 150,000 Venezuelans in the country,” said Hosein, who was speaking at the University of the West Indies, virtual conference yesterday on Covid-19 and Caribbean economies,
The UWI senior lecturer said, he believes that Trinidad and Tobago has responded in a humanitarian way towards illegal Venezuelan immigrants at a time when, like any other countries, T&T is facing economic challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Despite the challenges being faced due to the pandemic, the Government is not deporting the illegal immigrants in any big way and the system support set up for immigrants in this country is being accommodating as can be in these times.”
His statement follows outrage by T&T citizens and activists, over the treatment of 16 Venezuelan children, who were detained last week Tuesday, spent five nights in cells at Erin Police Station before they were deported on Sunday morning, on a pirogue. However, the children along with some of their parents made their way back to Trinidad and are once again in police custody.
Hosein said, only the 16,523 Venezuelans who were granted work permits through the registration process here last year are legal.
He noted that thousands more are in this country unregistered but are still receiving assistance from the Living Water community and other systems afforded to them. “Generally the population has supported the immigrants and has been hospitable thus far. Nobody has protested or kicked down doors of the immigrants’ home. The country on a whole is trying to work, as best as it can, to treat them with humanitarian care and love.”
The economist said because of the language barrier many of the Venezuelan immigrants find jobs in the non-tradable sector such as bars and pubs.
“This will draw some labour and capital out of the non-petroleum exportable sector. Unfortunately, because of the language barrier many of these immigrants will fall into the classification, unskilled workers, even though they would be qualified in other sectors.”
Hosein outlined that there is a need to promote English as a foreign language. “This will help to ensure that those immigrants who are formally registered to work in T&T can better integrate into the economy. This may require them obtaining a very basic English as a foreign language permit to be able to work, similar to the PLEA passport that the Energy Chamber promotes.