Venezuelan migrants

LIVING IN SQUALOR: Venezuelan migrants at Bilwah Trace, Icacos, yesterday. On Friday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that the Government will extend the immigration status of Venezuelan migrants and facilitate them until December. Below: Tabaquite MP Suruj Rambachan, left, presents food supplies to one of the Venezuelan migrants at Bilwah Trace. —Photos: DEXTER PHILIP

THE United National Congress Member of Parliament for Naparima Rodney Charles said that if Government has extended the amnesty to migrant Venezuelans then it must abide by the United Nations Convention and have a plan for the migrants’ entitlement to education, health care and fair treatment, as provided to people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Charles spoke to the media after he and UNC Tabaquite MP Surujrattan Rambachan visited Venezuelan families who have taken refuge in galvanised shacks near a beach at Icacos.

When the Express visited on Sunday, there were at least 60 migrants, with more than half of them children, residing in three shacks. According to Wikipedia, the United Nations Convention constitutes a comprehensive international treaty regarding the protection of migrant workers’ rights.

It emphasises the connection between migration and human rights, which is increasingly becoming a crucial policy topic worldwide.

The Convention aims at protecting migrant workers and members of their families; its existence sets a moral standard, and serves as a guide and stimulus for the promotion of migrant rights in each country.

On Friday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced in Parliament that Government will extend the amnesty to Venezuelan migrants until December.

However, Rowley said the Government was not responsible for their health care regarding the Covid-19 virus, but was responsible for residential facilities and making them productive citizens temporarily domiciled in Trinidad and Tobago.

Charles called on the Government to act with fairness to have a plan for the migrants who have to be in T&T.

“All the privileges that migrants are privy to under the UN Convention, to which we have signed and ratified, means that they are entitled to education, health care, and to all the treatment that Trinidadians and Tobagonians get,” said Charles.

“I am not too sure that they are being immunised, but here we have the Covid-19 virus and some have not been tested for it. If those who are born here are citizens and Spanish is their first language, and they are deprived of an education, then it means they have no hope of being an equal citizen in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.

“We are postponing a problem that will show up ten or 20 years down the line. The Government has to think of a short-term, medium-term and long-term plan for these people. What is happening here is disgusting and inhumane.”

Charles said he was told that the south-western borders remain porous despite the Government’s claim that they are locked down.

“We are told that people are coming in on a daily basis and going back and coming without any regulation, and information, then we are not in a position to plan. Nobody knows the number of Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago. Your guess is as good as mine. We know 16,000 registered but the Government does not know. We cannot plan a country with inadequate data input,” said the MP.

Substandard conditions

Rambachan said if the Government did not take care of its own citizens, it was expected they would not take proper care of migrants.

“What is also disturbing to me is that once these people arrive here and you decide to register them, you as a Government voluntarily and maybe legally decided you are going to accept them and provide facilities for them. What I am seeing here is no different than other parts of Trinidad where people live in substandard conditions.

“In the Bagatelle area, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) went to distribute hampers and it was distressing to see how elderly people live in conditions very much like these. This Government does not have a clear plan through the Ministry of Social Development in order to improve the quality of life and bring relief of its own citizens,” said Rambachan.

The Tabaquite MP said a “hygiene and health crisis” can emerge in the Icacos community, as he said he observed the migrants using water from a well, and the improper disposal of faecal waste.

Rambachan said he intended to raise in Parliament the issue of education of Venezuelan children.

“You have thousands of Venezuelan children who are receiving no education at all. And these are the formative years and no attempt is being made by the social services to at least improve that aspect of their lives. People come into another country to improve their lives. I think they are living under substandard conditions. I think it’s unacceptable that a number of other citizens who are very poor also live like this in our country,” he said.

“It is important that they got the (amnesty) extension. The Government will have to take a decision to repatriate them, but don’t think that they can. A lot of people ran from Venezuela because they are fearful for their lives. And if you repatriate them you may be putting their lives in danger as you send them back.”

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