BOATLOADS of Venezuelans continue to arrive in Trinidad seeking the chance to be registered, says Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh.
According to Teelucksingh, as soon as the boats dock along the various illegal ports of entry on Trinidad’s south western peninsula, migrants are being transported by buses to the San Fernando registration centre to be processed.
Speaking to the Express yesterday, Teelucksingh said with the Cedros Security Complex no longer processing ferries transporting Venezuelans at the port, the desperate foreign nationals fleeing their homeland are arriving in large numbers hoping for the opportunity to be registered.
The nearest centre for Venezuelans coming from south is at Achievors Banquet Hall in San Fernando. The registration process began on May 31 and will continue until June 14. The other centres are at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain and at the Caroline Building in Tobago.
“The port in Cedros remains closed for ferries being Venezuelans legally into Trinidad while the other illegal ports of entry remain open. There are no checks and balances from the authorities to stop these vessels coming to Icacos, Chatham, Bamboo Beach, St Ann’s Beach, the Granville Beach, Santa Flora, Erin and those areas remain open for the illegal Venezuelans. More and more Venezuelans are coming in by the boatloads throughout and the authorities are turning a blind eye,” he said.
Teelucksingh said over the weekend police intercepted a 25-seater maxi taxi carrying the newly arrived Venezuelan nationals and when taken to the nearest Immigration office, he said the officials gave the Venezuelans the registration forms. There were approximately 150 Venezuelans who entered the country over the weekend, said Teelucksingh.
He said: “What happened over the weekend was the police intercepted the maxi-taxi, took them down to Immigration and what happened next was Immigration just gave them these migrants the forms to go and get the work permit. And it is encouraging more of these illegals migrants to come in.”
Teelucksingh said the entire system of monitoring the Venezuelans entering the country has gone unchecked and has reached a point where it is now uncontrolled.
“Nobody is trying to put a stop to who is coming in or turning them back, or if there is a cut-off point. We are not hearing anything from the Ministry of National Security or Labour. Right now the whole system is unchecked and uncontrolled because of the amount of people coming in now from the South West peninsula,” he said.
Teelucksingh expressed concern that there would be significant job loss for his constituents with the number of Venezuelans arriving.
He said medications is already difficult for residents to collect.
“For the average citizen who seek employment now have to compete with the Venezuelans and the Minister of Labour needs to break her silence on this. I continue to say that there should be an assessment done with the shortfall of labour in Trinidad and Tobago in those sectors we need to import example the medical department.
In the South West peninsula we are seeing a shortage of residents getting medication. The Minister of Health continue to hoodwink the population saying that we have enough to deal with any crisis that should come up at the hospitals. The health centres don’t have the basic medications people need and we need help,” he said.
Speaking during a visit to the Port of Spain registration office on Thursday, National Security Minister Stuart Young said the Ministry has increased its resources regarding patrols along the borders.
“Over the past month or so, we had increased the number of assets, the available assets down in the maritime borders of Trinidad and Tobago both down in the South as well as up in the north. I don’t want to get into the operational side so then persons would know what we are trying to do and then they may try to avoid it. What I can tell is that we are utilising as much of the asserts that we have as possible that including our radar system, all of our boats and vessels, the Venezuelan authorities themselves have also stepped up on their side of the border with their patrols as well.
The port of Cedros, never didn’t open, but at the end of the day you have to understand from the national Security point of view our priority is to secure Trinidad and Tobago and our citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. So when there are patrols going out there, they will continue to do what it is they are doing, he said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced on Thursday that his Cabinet took a decision to exempt migrants from paying NIS. He added that the Government will not give an extension for registration of Venezuelans.