Leader of the Movement For Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah stopped short of blaming the government for the horrible tragedy at sea in which some 25 Venezuelans on their way to this country suffered a watery death when the pirogue in which they were travelling overturned.
However, he blamed the mad rush by those trying to get to TT to take advantage of the amnesty being offered.
At a news conference at its St Joseph, San Fernando headquarters on Friday, Abdulah reiterated his criticism of government’s amnesty policy for Venezuelans, who are fleeing political and economic turmoil in their country,to live and work in TT for a short period.
National Security Minister Stuart Young announced earlier this month there would be a 14-day registration period, estimated to cost $5 million, between May 31 and June 14 for migrants who are here legally or illegally.
Abdulah said “That policy was badly rolled out. There should have been a shorter window between the announcement and the registration.”
He said while the MSJ supports the humanitarian gesture, it has opened the doors for migrants to get here, legally or illegally, to beat the deadline for registration.
“What happens after June 14? Would people arriving after that date be allowed to register?
"We support the policy of registration, but the rollout was done in a bad way.”
“I am in no way linking the two (registering and the boat accident). It would not be fair to blame the government for that mishap,” he said, referring to Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal's comments that the blood of those who died was on the hands of Young and the government.
“The UNC would go to the extreme to make their political point, which is very unfortunate. I am not going to blame the government for the boat flipping, but certainly, the way the policy was rolled out means more Venezuelans are trying to enter TT before May 3, either legally or illegally.”
He said the policy is also discriminatory in that it speaks only of registering Venezuelans, “when there are many other persons from Haiti, West Africa, other parts of the Caribbean, Guyana, Jamaica, Cuba and elsewhere who are here, from Colombia, the Dominican Republic.
"They should also be registered. Government cannot discriminate against them. So, in many respects that policy was badly rolled out.”
He said the registration process may be able to identify the number of Venezuelans in the country at present, which has been estimated at over 60,000.
Moonilal was also critical of the policy, saying a better approach would have been to extend the stay of those who are already here legally. He said he was saddened by the incident in which some 35 Venezuelans, many of them who share the same last name, risked their lives by boarding the pirogue for a destination unknown, but which they hoped would be better than the one they left behind.