THE VIDEO that has been circulating on social media this week, showing people being smuggled into TT, captures a scene many have imagined but never confirmed. The details of the video are subject to further inquiry, but the overall picture is clear enough. We must do all in our power to prevent illegal immigration, drawing upon our good relations with Venezuela and other countries whose nationals see us as a land of opportunity, and applying due process while at the same time rejecting the racist, inhumane approach taken by people like US President Donald Trump.
Turmoil all over the world has resulted in unprecedented levels of immigration. The same forces behind the so-called “migrant caravan” – currently in Mexico and heading to the US border almost all of them on foot – have been pushing thousands of people to our shores. For example, an entourage arrested in a hotel in Erin over the Divali holiday comprised eight Venezuelans, two Syrians and a Guyanese.
We cannot condone the flouting of our immigration laws and processes. At the same time, we cannot support the inhumane treatment of immigrants, especially when we are all descendants of people who at one stage or another in our history immigrated or were brought here. And we, too, are still migrating to destinations all over the world, including the US and Canada. The desperation of some Venezuelans is such that they are willing to take risks to come to Trinidad. Clearly, they calculate that the frustration of being unwelcome here in some quarters is tolerable when compared with conditions at home where basic commodities are in short supply. We would do well to have a more regulated border, one that actually works to prevent the unregulated flow of individuals. That is essential if we are to fight illegal trades in guns, drugs and people. It is also essential if we are to give immigrants a chance to seek legitimate means of arriving to these shores.
In this regard, the report that a vehicle transporting detainees from the Arima and Sangre Grande courts to the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo crashed and flipped on Monday is a disturbing one. Several officers and detainees were injured. Luckily no fatalities have been reported. No one on our soil should be subject to unsafe conditions. But there is an even greater onus on the State to ensure it operates at a decent standard when it comes to people who are being incarcerated at its pleasure.
We welcome Minister of National Security Stuart Young’s actions with regard to the footage that has circulated this week. But it may well be impossible to stop the kinds of activities captured. In this regard, perhaps the Cabinet should consider offering Venezuelans who would like to come here legitimately a safer alternative. Because clearly many are slipping through the cracks. Each illegal arrival is a missed opportunity for us as a society.