THIRTY-FOUR Venezuelans held at the Immigration Detention Centre will soon be repatriated after that country’s ambassador, Coromoto Godoy Calderon, helped this country obtain requisite travel documents.
National Security Ministry Edmund Dillon yesterday told reporters during a visit to the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo, that Godoy had last week provided the ministry with the documents and as soon as Venezuela is ready to accept them, a coast guard vessel will be used for repatriation.
Asked whether, because of the current economic situation in Venezuela, these people could possibly be refugees, acting Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews said they did not meet the criteria stipulated by the UN High Commission for Refugees.
Instead, she said they were classified as “economic migrants,” many of whom had either entered the country illegally or else destroyed their travel documents. The five criteria to be considered for refugee status are race, religion, nationality, political ideology and membership to certain social classes.
A person has to assessed as having a reasonable fear of persecution under any of those criteria to be granted asylum.
Dillon noted that Trinidad is usually considered a transit point for people seeking asylum in either the US or Europe. Out of 1000 people claiming asylum in TT, he said, 100 have been granted. Gandhi-Andrews said Cabinet had approved a policy for refugees and the Immigration Department was working with the UNHCR to determine a national framework. As it stands, without legislation it is the UNHCR that determines refugee status, not the immigration department.
Dillon and Gandhi-Andrews were at the Immigration Detention Centre in order for the Minister to tour the refurbished facilities.
The ministry spent just under $2 million to improve the plumbing, electrical and air circulation works at the centres, as well as provided new bedding. They also changed the wooden doors to iron, because there had been reports of detainees using the wood as weapons. The facility’s capacity is still 150, and currently there are 89 men and 25 women. While the works were being completed the detainees had been housed at the Eastern Regional Correctional Facility but will be relocated on Saturday.