THREE fishermen initially held by Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional are being well cared for by a relative in Tucupita, Venezuela, and have ignored the TT Government’s help to return home, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon told yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
Reports are Nicholas Hajarie, 26, his father Awardnath Hajarie, 50, and friend Shami Seepersad, 35, were held by the Guardia on April 5 for allegedly fishing in Venezuelan waters off Cedros, and taken to a Venezuelan court.
Dillon said the men are now staying with their in-law Mikael Sankar, who lives in Tucupita legally with his Venezuelan wife.
“The men opted not to leave Venezuela. I have a sense there’s not a sense of urgency. They’re comfortable. They’re free to do what they want to do in Venezuela. We can’t force them onto a Coast Guard vessel.”
Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert hoped to end speculation but also added, “We don’t know what the facts are.”
Dillon listed the Government’s many efforts to help repatriate the men, while Imbert said a TT Coast Guard vessel would have taken fuel to Venezuela to reimburse that used to carry the trio from Tucupita to Soldado Rock.
However Dillon noted the men’s failure twice to seek a permit to leave Venezuela despite the local immigration office staying open an hour late to facilitate such.
“The Government has been making several attempts to ensure their safe return and ensure that while they are in Venezuela they are well taken care of.”
He said since the men’s detention on April 5, the TT Mission in Caracas asked the Tucupita courts to ensure the men were taken care of, until later freed without penalty.
Dillon said via the TT mission, the Guardia agreed to escort the men to Soldado Rock on April 15 to be met by the TT Coast Guard but Sankar cancelled at the last minute.
Sankar vowed to return the men on April 18 by his own arrangements but they never sought a certificate needed to leave. Dillon said the Government got permission for the TT Coast Guard to enter Venezuelan waters to return the trio to TT.
“It is up to them to determine when they leave Venezuela. No restrictions have been placed on them by the Venezuelans as to when they can leave the country.
“But we believe as a Government, we’ll make all efforts necessary to provide for them what’s required to return them home in Cedros.”
Asked about the human rights of Venezuelans to be deported by the Guardia.
Dillon said this proposal was for those falling afoul of the law in TT, and he had discussed it on Wednesday with Venezuelan Ambassador Coromoto Godoy.