HOURS after National Security Minister Stuart Young announced that Cabinet would be registering all Venezuelans in the country and offering an amnesty to those who entered illegally, 17, including elderly and toddlers, were caught hiding in the Moruga forest.
During a joint patrol by TT Regiment and the Moruga Police Station under the supervision of Sgt Seepersad, the lawmen made their way into the forest and found the group around 6 pm. Police said the group came into the country illegally via boat up the La Rufin River. Its believed they arrived Wednesday night and were hiding.
Some of them had rice, flour and other non perishable foodstuff already. Police described the sight of the group at their makeshift camp as "heartbreaking." Immigration officials were contacted and will begin to process those held. This is the third group of Venezuelans held illegally entering TT in the past month through Moruga, bringing the number held so far to 41.
At a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Young said he would take a note to Cabinet next week for approval of an amnesty policy that would allow Venezuelans, whether they were here legally or illegally, to live and work in TT for up to a year. Each Venezuelan will be given an identification card and it is hoped the registration process will allow the Government to get accurate data on the number of Venezuelans who are actually in the country. All Venezuelans, including children, will be processed, he said, but details about school attendance was still being worked out.
On Wednesday, Young said Government planned to set up an army base in Moruga, since the area was prone to human trafficking, smuggling, drug trafficking and gun running. Young made the comment at a media conference at the Moruga Police Station following a meeting with relatives from Basse Terre and Gran Chemin. He added then that the exploding socio-economic crisis in Venezuela had escalated the influx of Venezuelans to Trinidad.