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Tuesday 21 January 2020
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Letters to the Editor

Exit strategy for migrants needed

In the midst of the government humanitarian efforts to assist thousands of desperate Venezuelans by allowing them to work in this country for one year, I would like to advise the government to proceed with caution.

In order for this policy to have any chance of being successful, effective systems and structures must be put in place and the rules of engagement must be enforced. There are several economic and social issues associated with this influx of Venezuelans which this country is not prepared to deal with. Many of the more serious repercussions will not be experienced now in the short term but in the long term and the impact could be very far reaching. The Prime Minister said recently that we cannot just open the gate wide open as it would be difficult to close. However, I believe that the gate is already wide open and if a clear exit strategy is not put in place now, the long-term consequences would be very serious indeed.

There are many important questions that have arisen with respect to this policy, which the government is yet to effectively address. How our institutions, many already stretched to breaking point, will cope with this influx of migrants? Our hospitals are already plagued with serious overcrowding, with bed shortages and many of our own citizens already have to wait hours to receive medical attention. Our education system currently faces may serious challenges, added to which our teaches are ill-equipped to deal with the Spanish-speaking children coming from a different education system.

In addition, several serious social issues will arise which will have ripple effects throughout the society. Many desperate Venezuelan women will throw themselves at Trinidad men, married and unmarried and, in a sexually charged society like ours, the threat of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and potential negative impacts on family life are very real indeed.

There would, no doubt, be some among the Venezuelan migrants who would be prone to becoming involved in criminal activities. How will our already burdened National Security agencies messed-up judicial systems cope with battling any additional criminal activities?

I believe however, that the major challenge that the country faces with this new migrant policy is that government doesn’t have a clear exit strategy in treating with the migrants at the end of the one-year period. What happens at the end of the year when the permit expires? Many of these Venezuelans will believe that once they are in possession of these permits that they become de facto residents with no intentions of returning to their country.

One way of dealing with the situation is for the authorities to stipulate that, at the expiration of the permits, the migrants must return to Venezuela for one year, during which our national security agencies would review the situation. Based on the review, the authorities may deem it necessary to renew the permit for another period of time or that the situation in Venezuela has stabilised sufficiently enough there is no need to renew the permits.

While they are allowed to work for the year they would have the opportunity to save enough money to sustain themselves back in Venezuela for a year. Strict rules should be implemented to ensure that migrants do not violate the terms and conditions of their permits. People who fail to return voluntarily to Venezuela following the expiration of their one-year permit should be denied the opportunity to return to this country to work for another year.

Putting a system like this in place would ensure that there is an effective exit strategy with respect to this migrant situation.

The situation with the Venezuelan migrants is similar to someone living in a community who has neighbours displaced by a negative situation and allows a family to stay at his home. No matter how compassionate and caring someone is to such a family, such a stay cannot continue for an indefinite period and must have an expiry date. The natural dynamics of human relationships ultimately will come into play.

Leslie Gilkes, San Fernando

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