Members of the Tobago House of Assembly, gave mixed reactions on Tuesday in response to comments about Venezuelans made by Christlyn Moore last week at a political meeting hosted by the Tobago Liberation and Empowerment team in Bon Accord.
Moore, political leader of Tobago Forwards, raised a number of questions on Tobago's ability to manage approximately 300 Venezuelan migrants living on the island.
"That is .5 (per cent) of your population. Are we prepared?" she asked residents of Canaan/Bon Accord.
"What is the policy? What is the strategy? What is the plan? Are we prepared?"
She also questioned what impact their presence would have on the crime rate, the island's schools and healthcare system.
Asked whether Moore's questions were legitimate, Minority member Farley Augustine said, “They are by no means fearmongering. I asked last week for us to manage this crisis, and managing this crisis means addressing these obvious issues. If we are going to register Venezuelans and allow them to work for a period, they will no doubt require some social services like healthcare while they are here.
"And given that many Tobagonians have experienced crappy healthcare and other social services for a long time, it is paramount that we consider how we are going to manage this crisis in terms of the drawdown on our social services and the associated costs. The plan has to extend beyond just registering them. Registering them will help with security but we have to consider the social costs.”
Augustine, however, had an issue with the 300 figure being stated. He said he prefers to wait for the numbers from the registration process.
Giving his opinion on Moore's statements, Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said the registering of Venezuelans was a necessity and would help shape a plan by the Government. He also expressed scepticism of the 300 figure Moore claimed was the number of Venezuelans residing here.
“Registration is a prerequisite for further policy formulation as the numbers must be determined. She alone knows where the 300 came from.”
For the past five days approximately 160 people were registered in Tobago.
160 REGISTERED IN 5 DAYS
Police on Tuesday said the figure circulating in the public that there are 300 Venezuelans living and working in Tobago is inaccurate. Newsday police sources previously estimated the number as 300 but on Tuesday senior officers said this figure was not officially released by Tobago police.
Speaking to Newsday on Tuesday Supt Ucef Alexander said police had no data relating to the number of Venezuelans on the island. He said police are monitoring and relaying the figures coming out of the two-week amnesty period set by the Government for the registration of Venezuelans migrants to live and work here for a year.
On Monday, ACP Ansley Garrick was also puzzled and concerned about the figure published in the media. He told Newsday it would be impossible for Tobago police to say how many Venezuelans are staying and working illegally and legally on the island. “Whoever gave out the information, I don’t know what they used to measure that, if it is they used documented arrivals to get 300, because I cannot say what was used to measure that.”
The registration process began on May 31 and will continue until June 14. Officials at the Caroline Building, Scarborough told Newsday on the first day of registration only 20 people registered. The figured increased to 85 by Monday afternoon. By 5pm on Tuesday 160 Venezuelans had registered.
The process in Tobago continues to move smoothly and there have not been any reports of problems or long lines.