Darielvis Sarabia

Injured in shooting at sea: Darielvis Sarabia, mother of an infant who was killed when T&T Coast Guard officers fired upon a Venezuelan migrant vessel off the south-east coast on Saturday night. Sarabia was also shot, and was among the migrants captured after the boat was intercepted. She is asking to be reunited with her two-year-old daughter, who was also on the vessel.

Reunite me with my daughter.

Three days after young mother Darielvis Sarabia suffered the loss of her infant son when the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard officers opened fire on a migrant ­vessel, she is making an ­appeal to be reunited with her little girl.

Sarabia was injured in the shooting incident that has sparked outrage among human rights organisations and members of the Venezuelan community in Trinidad and Tobago.

She is in stable condition at the Sangre Grande Hospital.

Her son died in her arms when he was shot in the head.

Sarabia’s two-year-old daughter, Danna Isabella Santoyo Sarabia, was seated next to her when the shooting happened.

She was not injured.

The mother and two young children were coming to Trinidad to be reunited with their father, who came here eight months ago.

The family had fled the economic crisis in Venezuela, in search of a better life.

Sarabia’s relatives have called on the Government of T&T to intervene and return the child to her mother.

The Express was told the family was separated after the vessel docked at the Coast Guard base in Pt ­Galeota at daybreak on Sunday.

The body of the infant boy, Yaelvis Santoyo Sarabia, was removed by undertakers, while his mother was taken away in an ambulance.

Sarabia told her relatives the last time she saw her daughter, she was being taken away by another migrant woman, who promised to take care of her.

“We don’t know where she is, until now. In the moment of desperation the mother saw another migrant woman took the girl, assuring the mother to take care of her. We presume that the girl was taken with this migrant and they got arrested somewhere for immigration and we don’t know the location,” the relative said.

Call for justice

Relatives demanded that the Government reveal information on the child’s whereabouts to the mother.

The family has also called for justice in the shooting of the woman’s son.

The Express contacted the Immigration Division, seeking answers on the where­abouts of little Danna Isabella. An official said the child was being held at a detention centre, along with 37 other people detained from the vessel.

The official said the Immigration Division was attempting to reach the child’s father, but that was unsuccessful.

She said the girl will remain in quarantine and then be processed.

According to relatives, Sarabia has not been able to locate her baby’s body and was also seeking assistance from the authorities.

The Express reached out to the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer, Lt Kerron Valere, on the status of the investigations, and asked for an explanation from the TTCG on how the officers didn’t know people were on board the 30-foot fishing pirogue, details on where the migrant vessel was first sighted by the TTCG, and what time it was spotted.

The Express questioned whether the infant boy died on the vessel, and the location of his body as well as the ­vessel.

Valere responded, “The matter is still under investigation and at this time the only statement on this matter is the TTCG’s Official Response dated February 6, 2022.”

Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob confirmed yesterday evening that there was an active police investigation into the ­incident.

He said, “The general rule of the Police Service is to investigate issues and once someone is killed, an investigation must be launched into the matter. The matter is being investigated by a third division officer from Southern Division.”

Jacob said the matter will be investigated “like any other investigation”.

An investigation has also been launched by the Coast Guard, he said.

Jacob confirmed that 37 migrants were detained on the Venezuelan vessel and were being held at a detention centre.

He did not give the exact location.

He said the migrants were being treated in accordance with international standards.

The baby’s body was removed to the Forensic Science Centre in St James and would undergo a post-mortem, he said.

However, he said family members would have to be contacted to witness the post-mortem.

“A relative has to contact the Mayaro police, also the investigator from the Southern Police, and they will be able to say because in all these instances the body will go to the Forensic Science Centre for a post-mortem to be conducted, as in any ­other shooting in Trinidad and Tobago. The relatives will have to be contacted because they will be present when the post-mortem is done,” Jacob said.

Jacob said the child’s mother was still at hospital and he was not aware of her condition.

He said she may have to be the person to witness the post-mortem if no other relatives come forward.

The Venezuelan vessel was secured by the Coast Guard and will be handed over to police for further ­investigations.

“So, Trinidad and Tobago has a rigid system in how these things are done to stay within the requirements of the rule of law that police must follow when there is a death,” Jacob said

The Coast Guard’s official response on Sunday afternoon was that its personnel fired on the engines of the migrant boat because it attempted to ram its vessel, and officers were fearful for their lives and acting in self-defence.

The incident occurred shortly before midnight Saturday in the waters off Trinidad’s south-east coast, and involved the TTS Scarborough, one of two Cape Class patrol vessels commissioned two months ago and deployed to protect the country’s maritime borders.

The TTCG said while patrolling the south coast, the TTS Scarborough detected a vessel that had crossed the border from Venezuela. The TTCG pursued the boat which attempted to evade the TTS Scarborough and the ship’s boat was launched to aid in the interception. The TTS Scarborough carries two high-speed 7.3-metre rigid-hull inflatable boats. It launched one to hunt down the migrant vessel.

“All available methods were used including the use of the loud hailer, ship’s horn, searchlight and flares, to try to get the suspect vessel to stop, however, the vessel continued to attempt to evade TTS Scarborough. In keeping with standard protocols, warning shots ahead of the vessel were next employed,” the TTCG statement said. It said this measure also proved futile.

“At this time, the ship’s boat from TTS Scarborough attempted to intercept the vessel, however, the vessel continued with aggressive manoeuvres, first coming into contact with the ship’s boat and then making attempts to ram it.”

Human Rights lawyer Nafeesa Mohammed has called for an immediate investigation to get to the truth of the matter.


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