STACY MOORE and YVONNE WEBB
NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young says there is no refugee crisis in TT. Instead, he says all this country had was a situation involving a number of refugees.
Speaking at the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Passage to Asia restaurant on Saturday, the minister said government was dealing with the situation as humanely as possible.
But, he maintained, this country’s laws must be upheld/
“As I keep repeating over and over, there is no refuge crisis in TT,” he emphasised. Last week, councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh called on government to tighten the border security in the south western peninsula to stop illegal immigrants. Teelucksingh said there was a weekly influx of immigrants from Venezuela who come through the porous borders of Erin, Cedros, Icacos, Moruga, Carli Bay and other areas along the coast in alarming numbers. He called for the strengthening of the immigration division in Cedros and for government to make greater use of the assets of the Coast Guard in protecting the borders.
Young, who confirmed there are some 214 illegal entry points between Trinidad and Tobago, said government will spend $6 million to get 14 of the interceptor boats back into service to be strategically placed along the coast to improve surveillance and stop the influx.
Recently a video on social media went viral showing approximately 11 illegal immigrants coming through an unprotected border area in Erin via fishing vessels. In the last week, local authorities also intercepted vessels on the north coast which were reportedly bringing in illegal immigrants.
Teelucksingh pointed out that the immigrants who are fleeing the political and economic turmoil in their country are subjected to exploitation because of their needs.
On this basis, he said, there must be a humane approach to dealing with the immigrants, especially those who require medical assistance.
“They need to be taken care of during the time they spend here, and we are asking the relevant international organisations with experience in such migration, such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and others, to be contacted to assist in this matter.”
He introduced a motion, which was passed, calling for action by the authorities. The motion has been sent to Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein for his investigation and recommendation to the Minister of National Security and the Attorney General. On Saturday, Young said government was looking at developing a policy to treat with refugees coming to this country.
He said although international treaties were signed by this country, decades ago, there are no domestic legislation to treat with the issue.
Young said government will look at the conventions on refugees to determine what can become law.
“We need to look to see how is the best way to deal with what is taking place and it is something that requires a policy and that is what is being worked on now,” he said.
Young is expected to meet the Living Waters Community, which assists people seeking asylum, the UNHCR, and the UN Refugee Agency to develop the policy.