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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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Tobago

Jack: Allow all migrants to register

Jahzeel Joseph pedals past Venezuelans on his “high-rider” bike at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Sunday.
Jahzeel Joseph pedals past Venezuelans on his “high-rider” bike at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Sunday.

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

Former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader and political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Ashworth Jack is calling for an amnesty for everyone detained at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), similar to that offered to Venezuelans who have breached immigration laws.

Speaking at a public meeting on Saturday at Plymouth Junction, hosted by the members of the Tobago Liberation and Empowerment Team, Jack said: “My position is that there should be one position on all those persons who are non-criminal immigrants until June 14, treat everybody the same way.”

The TOP leader said while he has heard every comment, good, bad and indifferent, he is of the firm belief that Trinidad and Tobago should have saved itself a couple hundred million dollars a day by freeing all illegal immigrants who do not have a criminal record.

“The majority of persons in the immigration centre are from our Caribbean neighbours of Jamaica, Guyana and some Africans, and then of course there were some Venezuelans. The Government took buses, sent them to the detention centre to take the Venezuelans out of the detention centre, register then in the different centres and then of course, they’re free because they have a one-year registration.

“My question is if the similarities of circumstances, which is mostly economics, why didn’t the Government take a decision to release all the immigrants except those who committed crime. Is it one rule for one set of people and a totally different rule for everybody else? Guyana had the same kind of problem and we used to turn back Jamaicans and Guyanese at the airports. They must be treated the same way, and I am sure that it is much less that the 20,000 or 30,000 Venezuelans that would be registered over the past few days.”

Political leader of the Tobago Forwards, Christlyn Moore, also a member of the Tobago Liberation and Empowerment Team, said the demographics of Tobago will change.

She said, “Somebody has to prepare us for that...Somebody has to prepare the homogeneous population of Tobago for a demographic change. How are we going to deal with this? What does it mean for us? What does it mean for the unemployed... when your domestic unemployment rate does not change, but you have persons slowly creeping into your community and finding jobs where your people can’t. How are you going to account for that? How is that going to be explained when your child cannot find a job in the most menial of places, but you going there to buy a pound of sugar and the first question is going to be 'Hablas espanol?' How are you going to treat with that.. who is talking to you about that?”

Moore said although there has been a trickle in the migrant registration in Tobago, she speculated that the numbers will increase over the upcoming days.

“Make no mistake, if they reach Trinidad from Venezuela, they could reach Tobago from Trinidad. It's no maths... We are a safe heaven for everybody but where is our safety net? So everybody could come here for land, for security, for husband but we can’t go nowhere? This is why Tobago needs to tell its own story because as far as Port of Spain is concerned, we don’t have a story to tell. And if we do, they would make it up for us, write the book and sell it back to us. We have to change that, and we cannot do it alone... Tobago has to reclaim it's voice... it is time.”

Moore, no stranger to controversy, was heavily criticised in January 2017 for saying Tobagonians should put Visine in the water and give Trinidadians who came to Tobago to vote in the Tobago House of Assembly elections.

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