TODAY marks the start of the much-debated Venezuelan migrant registration. We herald the start of this process, which effectively represents a kind of amnesty since it affords Venezuelans in this country illegally an opportunity to be regularised and, therefore, to work legally, enjoying the protection of our labour laws for a period of one year. In addition to being a basic form of humanitarian compassion, the process also has also the potential to assist the State in ascertaining the facts when it comes to the true extent of Venezuelan presence in this country.
However, if the registration process is to meet its goals, it must be properly administered. Authorities must find a way to convince sceptical Venezuelans who may be fearful of their whereabouts getting back to the government of Nicolas Maduro. Officials must also be supported by adequate resources, including sound legal advice when it comes to implementation of public international law as well as the engendering of legitimate expectations.
It is in some respects fitting that the start of the process comes one day after the commemoration of Indian Arrival Day.
Yesterday’s holiday provided an opportunity for all to reflect on the contributions of those whose ancestors came to this country – some through trickery, others voluntarily under difficult contractual arrangements – from Asia. The flow of East Indian indentureship enriched our society immeasurably, affecting all aspects of life, helping to build TT’s institutions and culture.
History, then, teaches that migration is itself something that brings positives even amid difficulties.
The dramatic disagreement over the cost of Venezuelan arrival to this country in many respects potentially flows from a difference in approach when it comes to assessment of the quality of life. It is hoped the registration exercise will help generate more precise figures which will remove room for doubt. However, no registration exercise will ever perfectly capture the full extent of the picture. Equally, the cost of migration flows should not be limited to those incurred by central State agencies. A holistic approach is needed, which is why estimates are likely to always differ.
Be that as it may, the costs, however assessed, must be viewed within a long-term context. There are potential economic benefits to the heightened availability of skilled labour, especially in the context of government make-work programmes resulting in complaints by the business community over a shortage of labour in the private sector.
Venezuelans who flee to this country are likely to bring with them their unique skills and their productivity. They are likely to give back to society through contribution to our tax revenues and to bolster consumer demand for goods and services.
The registration process acknowledges that while the gate may already be open, the horse has not necessarily bolted from the stable.