TT was named as the top Caribbean destination for Venezuelan migrants, in a story yesterday by the British Guardian. The paper reported that 40,000 Venezuelans had sought refuge here, ahead of 28,500 in the Dominican Republic, 16,000 in Aruba and about 16,000 in Curacao, said the article.
“Political repression, violent crime and economic collapse have caused at least three million Venezuelans – more than nine per cent of the country’s population – to flee their home since 2015, in an exodus without precedent in Latin America,” it said.
The Caribbean is on the front line of this.
The article contrasted the leisure of European tourists in the Caribbean with the angst of Venezuelan migrants, often here illegally, evading police and surviving on menial jobs.
“By far the most popular Caribbean island destination is the twin island nation of TT, which lies almost within swimming distance of Venezuela’s west coast.”
The article referred to a former investigative journalist from Monagas, Venezuela, who was targeted and threatened for reporting on a black market in subsidised food products in Venezuela, and who now packs breakfast cereal on grocery shelves in Trinidad.
“If detained by Trinidadian authorities, he risks being jailed, fined or sent back to Venezuela," the story said.
It also reported that: "In April, TT deported 82 Venezuelan asylum applicants, in violation of international refugee law.”
The story quoted the Prime Minister saying, “This country will not allow the United Nations or any other international body to convert it into a refugee camp.”
It said the Government has promised new legislation on asylum seekers, but this has yet to emerge.
The migrant journalist told the paper, “We live in a judicial limbo: we have no way to legally support ourselves here.
“I feel that I came from a country where I do not have rights, but here I’m also without rights.”
The article said Venezuelan migrants find cultural differences jarring, such as the English language, right-hand-drive cars and cricket.
“Security is also an issue," it pointed out. "Venezuelans leave behind a country judged to be the second most dangerous in the world, but TT is only ten places below that, and undocumented refugees are both targets and recruits for the islands’ gangs.”
The story quoted RC Archbishop of Port of SpainJason Gordon, saying, “As long as the borders remain porous, more Venezuelans are going to come.” He argued that rather than shun the migrants, TT should help them use their skills to build the economy, adding, “This is an issue that affects every citizen of the island.”