REVEALING the cost of the Venezuelan migrant registration exercise as $5 million, National Security Minister Stuart Young said yesterday that the government has asked the Venezuelan authorities to step up their border patrols to try to stem the influx of migrants to TT.
At a press briefing at his ministry at Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, Young admitted the registration was a “pull factor” for further migrants to come to TT, and there was “no possibility” of TT fully shutting down its borders. He was nonetheless glad that talks between President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition leader Juan Guaido meant the whole situation was now fluid.
Young said the Venezuelan authorities have been asked to “step up on their side.” He said, “The Venezuelan authorities and the Guardia Nacional, they have been doing it, but they have also been requested to see what extra resources they can put up to assist in the prevention of people leaving Venezuela with the intent of illegally coming into TT.”
He said it was almost impossible to throw a complete blanket of security over TT. Young said he has had as “tremendous response” from people offering to be Spanish-language interpreters for the exercise. “We are oversubscribed.”
He said fewer than planned registration centres will be used, namely the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Achievers Banquet Hall in San Fernando and Caroline Building, Wilson Road in Tobago. Young also hoped migrants would register online before the registration period of May 31 - June 14. Young said each migrant registered will get a receipt and a registration card with security features for those 16 and over. Saying anyone committing crimes would be deported, he said, “I have signed deportation orders in the past few weeks, about ten.”
On the 101 migrants held last week, he said in collaboration with the Venezuelan authorities a complete due diligence had been done to match them to their identification numbers in Venezuela. “That system is working and we’ll be tapping into that system as we go forward in this registration exercise.” While he was not consulted on the exercise that saw the 101 get orders of supervision, he said he trusts his immigration officers.
Of the Venezuelan man rescued from Grenadian waters, Young said no boat wreckage was ever found, while both TT and Grenadian authorities had identified him as a man with a criminal background who engages in human trafficking. Pressed later by Newsday, he said the man was involved in not mere migrant smuggling but human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution.
“We’ll not tolerate crime rings engaging in human trafficking. All sorts of things happen when people come to TT. We’ll be going after those engaged in human trafficking, exploiting Venezuelans in prostitution and other detrimental areas.”
Locals involved would also be tackled, he vowed. While repeatedly referring to migrants as “our Venezuelan brothers and sisters,” Young said the Government’s first duty is to its own TT citizens.
Apparently referring to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he said it is very easy to issue a migrant a piece of paper to stay in TT, but TT has not been seeing the end of the process where such individuals are sent to places that have more resources to take care of them. Saying Peru is overstretched and is deporting Venezuelans and Colombia is strained, Young said the Government is very aware its resources are limited.
Replying to questions, Young said the registration exercise will cost $5 million, but no international agency is helping with this cost. Some software and expertise had been sourced from the International Office of Migration.
Asked about labour market distortion by the migrants, he said, “The market will work itself out. Persons will compete for the jobs.” On exploitation, he said the registration is to prevent anyone trying to coerce migrants over their illegal status to do undesirable acts.