There is no need for Venezuelans to fear the registration process, acting National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds assured at the post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.
“This will only bring benefits,” he said as he gave a refresher on what to expect. Registration begins tomorrow until June 14, with the exception of June 5, which is a national holiday in observance of Eid-ul-Fitr. “It is most certainly not a trick a trap or anything sinister, it is the opposite,” acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert added. “We are making something that is wrong, right.”
Venezuela in recent years has suffered from economic and political turmoil, resulting in an influx of refugees and economic migrants to TT, as part of what the UN has called the biggest humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere, and second only to Syria in the world.
“The Government is responding to this reality which we did not create but by virtue of our geography and history we are having to deal with,” Hinds said. Registration is open to any Venezuelan who is in TT legally (as a visitor) and illegal. Those who have permanent residency, citizenship or a work permit do not need to apply. It will afford those who are registered the right to remain here “undisturbed and unperturbed” for up to a year, with the right to work, protected by local laws against abuses by employers, especially regarding minimum wage.
During the registration process, information provided to immigration officers will be cross-referenced with data from the Venezuelan authorities. Asked how that relationship will work, especially given that included among registrants will be people who have applied for political asylum, Imbert said TT maintains its position of non-intervention and non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign states and therefore could not comment.
Hinds and Imbert also assured that even though what appears to be a mock-up design for the registration cards had been leaked online, that is not the final design, which has yet to be approved by the substantive National Security Minister, Stuart Young. Young is currently out of the country as part of a delegation headed by the Prime Minister to the Shell headquarters in the Netherlands. That delegation returns next Wednesday night. Since the leak, Hinds said, special arrangements have been put in place to guard the secrecy of the design, and no more than two people know the final look. The card will also have advanced security features similar to passports. Though they have yet to be printed the intention is to have the first set complete and distributed to qualifying registrants within the two-week window. In the interim, those who have registered will be given a receipt to present to authorities. Registration does not guarantee approval. For those who do not qualify, for whatever reason, normal immigration laws will apply. “It is an opportunity to be here lawfully, work and maintain human dignity and there is nothing to fear so we take the opportunity to encourage all to engage,” Hinds said.