THE EDITOR: There are a multitude of reasons why Venezuelan nationals would decide to flee their home country, including poverty and political persecution. However, there are numerous nuances to this issue.
When a Venezuelan national, and by extension any other national, decides to flee their home country due to a variety of factors including poverty, they may be classified as an asylum seeker.
Asylum seekers are guaranteed refuge in UN member nations under international law — which is generally enforced and upheld in said member states. TT is, obviously, a UN member State.
However, things take a nosedive as some member states, including Trinidad, have poor immigration frameworks. These frameworks weren’t designed to handle large numbers of asylum seekers — as is currently occurring due to the huge influx of Venezuelan asylees.
Generally, the ports of entry to TT are by sea and land and, in order to have entered this country legally, one must be inspected by a designated official from the Ministry of National Security (usually an immigration officer). Comparatively, it costs a fortune to fly to Trinidad from Venezuela and as a result Venezuelans entering this country by air almost always do so legally and have sufficient funds to quickly transition to meaningful and productive work (which is of course welcome).
When the latter segment of immigrants overstay their allotted time they then cease to be in the republic legally. Now let’s divert attention to our friends who enter by sea. For ages we know that drugs, arms and ammunition enter this country via small boats (usually originating from Venezuela).
Before serious crisis struck, these foreign nationals would usually trade their legal/illegal items then race back home. However, due to recent economic/political factors there is an increasing demand for transportation to Trinidad’s shores.
It is believed the vast majority of Venezuelans desiring to come to TT by boat are honest, impoverished and disadvantaged refugees who are in dire need of assistance and jobs. However, with little money to spare, and a glut of guns and drugs in Venezuela, it becomes immediately apparent that said illegal items may be bartered for food and money; but there is a critical difference.
Recently, these traffickers have not been racing back home, but instead are setting up syndicates domestically, which further serves to increase the proliferation of guns, drugs and human trafficking. Obviously, I don’t think our gun/drug-toting immigrants are inspected in Chaguaramas or Icacos. So, it’s fair to say this category of immigrant is here illegally.
It has long been alleged, and is most likely true, that rogue elements within the Public Service have become complicit in many of these activities. This therefore begs the question: can demons really bring angels to our shores? Or will said vagabonds be more likely to bring fellow fiends and vagabonds to our shores?
Venezuela and its refugees need our help. To ignore their plight is to turn our backs on whatever humanity is left in us. We need to take this opportunity to provide them with meaningful employment in the agricultural and hospitality sectors, not because of stereotypical Latino job roles, but because these sectors are in dire need of revival.
Trinidad may find itself becoming food secure in a matter of mere months, and even experience a significant uptick in tourism. These immigrants may potentially grow our economy by orders of magnitude. Additionally, many of them accept jobs that Trinidadians regard as lowly.
I see every vibrant Venezuelan that arrives in TT as a potential blessing and curse. However, if we treat our friends from the other side with dignity and respect, in the near future I hope we’ll be obliged to remove the “curse” from the description.
It is my sincerest hope that we can create a much needed new home for our Venezuelan refugees, and embark on a vigorous drive to integrate them into Caribbean society. Additionally, it would be wise to amend our immigration framework, laws, and policies to reflect our current geopolitical reality.
DAVID D BREMNOR