Central American criminals pose as Venezuelans

Ag Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi Andrews and Gewan Harricoo, Immigration Officer IV at yesterday’s JSC on Immigration. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
Ag Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi Andrews and Gewan Harricoo, Immigration Officer IV at yesterday’s JSC on Immigration. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

THERE are people from Central and South American countries with criminal records illegally entering the country and posing as Venezuelans.

This was reported yesterday at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting with the Immigration Division held at the Parliament building, Port of Spain.

JSC member Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh said the highest number of detainees at the IDC was from Venezuela and if these 114 were removed, only 39 would be left. She suggested alternative transport should be provided to deport them.

Immigration Officer IV Gewan Harricoo said almost 100 per cent of the Venezuelans in detention arrived via clandestine means and not a legal port of entry. He said a significant number cannot be identified because they arrived without any documents.

He said it takes a while to liaise with the Venezuelan Embassy (with which the division has a good relationship) to identify the individuals.

But, he said, “We are finding they are not Venezuelans in some cases. They are posing as Venezuelans.”

He said these impostors were from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia and Peru. Harricoo said it takes significant effort and time to identify them and in some cases there are significant criminal antecedents in their respective homelands. He explained this information is sourced via Interpol, but it takes time.

Harricoo said in 2018 there were close to 2,000 people on orders of supervision and in 2019 there were approximately 200 new people. He reported in 50 per cent of cases there are breaches of orders of supervision by failure to report to the Immigration Division. A lot of people were in the system working without a work permit, studying without a student permit and breaching the Immigration Act, he said.

“What we are finding also, a lot of the persons who are not reporting on the orders of supervision, when they do come to our attention because of some police exercise or law enforcement exercise, they have criminal offences, and in some cases multiple criminal offences.”

Harricoo explained the crimes are committed while the people should be on orders of supervision.

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews said some of those on orders of supervision have left the country clandestinely and electronic monitoring could help the Immigration Division know where they are while on orders of supervision. She added there will need to be a symbiotic relationship between the division and the unit which will be responsible for the monitoring.

JSC chairman Sophia Chote suggested detainees who are on bail should report to a police station rather than the Immigration Division but Harricoo said increasingly the police are not willing to treat with the immigration matter. He said the issue could be discussed with the Commissioner of Police.


"Central American criminals pose as Venezuelans"

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