TT must remember its history of emerging from slavery, indentureship and oppression and finding refuge in TT. Tobago House of Assembly Minority member Farley Augustine said it was now citizens' duty to assist Venezuelans fleeing their country’s economic crisis and seeking help here.
At the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) weekly press briefing on Tuesday morning, Augustine said his party welcomes the registration process for Venezuelans, but is asking the government to find ways to control the influx.
“Given the history of TT, we have, more than anybody else, a moral responsibility to reach out to people who are affected by human oppression. Whether we like it or not, Venezuelans will keep trying to come to our shore. If people are desperate for any escape from a storm, and though TT may not be the best port from the storm Venezuelans are facing, people will try to get in, because it is way better than where they are at.”
Augustine added that even though TT must become a safe haven for Venezuelan refugees seeking shelter, this country must be able to control the numbers for the safety and comfort of citizens and to maintain operations at institutions.
“Ideally the best way of managing the Venezuela crisis is to find a way to fix the crisis in Venezuela so they don’t need to come here, but TT being so minute in global politics, it’s difficult for us, as a small country, to help Venezuelans."
Instead, he said TT must find a way to manage the influx of migrants "because we don’t have the capital to take care of all of them." One way of doing this, he said, was finding out who is here and how many of them are really here.
He believes the registration process should have been done differently, without issuing registration cards.
Augustine raised concerns about the government providing jobs for registered Venezuelans while, in his view, many citizens are having trouble getting jobs.
“We have seen the reaction of Trinbagonians who cannot find jobs themselves and it’s difficult to say to citizens, 'We are going to open our doors and provide jobs for outsiders.'"
He said if the government is unable to manage this, TT’s economy will end up in crisis.
But he admitted, “I don’t think there is anything we can do to stop them from coming since our coastal borders are not properly protected where we can’t even get Coast Guard to respond to fishermen’s plights.”
Registration for Venezuelan migrants will begin on Friday and last for two weeks. In Tobago a number of booths will be set up at the Caroline Building, Wilson Road, Scarborough for registration. Cards will not be given to people under 16, and have built-in security scanning technology.