THE decision by the State to detain Venezuelan minors who had arrived in this country along with their parents seeking refugee status has been deemed as illegal by the High Court.
Such decisions set a bad precedent, attracted negative publicity for the country and there must be some type of intervention by the legislative arm of the State to ensure such incidents do not again take place in the future, said Justice Joan Charles.
Justice Charles made the statements yesterday afternoon as she ordered the immediate release of ten Venezuelan minors and four mothers who were being held at the heliport in Chaguaramas since last week.
On Sunday, attorneys Criston J Williams, Jerome Riley and Kerrina Samdeo filed habeas corpus writs seeking their release from custody.
They had all arrived in this country illegally and were later detained and held at Chaguaramas.
The matter came up for hearing on Monday night before Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams, who gave the attorneys directions for the filing of supplemental affidavits.
When it was recalled before Justice Charles yesterday, the judge said the detention of children at detention centres created trauma at an early age and will, in the future, affect them mentally.
She said proper procedure and policies must be made to facilitate the release of children into the care and custody of the Children’s Authority.
“Having heard from everyone, I am of the view that the minors must be released. Immigration and the Children’s Authority could monitor what is happening there,” she said.
The judge ordered that the Children’s Authority conduct a suitability assessment of the address and homes that they will be residing following their release.
Some of them have relatives from Venezuela who are legally registered to reside in Trinidad and Tobago.
The report of the Children’s Authority is to be furnished to the court in the next 21 days. Further to this, the Children’s Authority was ordered to conduct interviews of the persons who will be caring for the children.
Prior to ordering that they be released, attorneys who appeared on behalf of the Chief of Defence Staff sought to argue that if the country were to allow all adults and children who came illegally to Trinidad and Tobago to be released, pursuant to an order of supervision, “this would simply attract more immigrants into our shores”.
However, the submission was shot down as the judge said the law required that the children and their mothers be immediately released.