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Friday 19 July 2019
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[UPDATED] PM: Opposition wants TT to be refugee camp

‘We will brook no international interference’

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Photo by Kerwin Pierre
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Photo by Kerwin Pierre

THE PRIME Minister says the Opposition has been inflating the figures of Venezuelans in TT and influencing international agencies.

He was responding to prime minister's questions in the House yesterday. Naparima MP Rodney Charles asked, given the clear shortcomings in the current amnesty for Venezuelans, why the Government was not giving thought to a comprehensive refugee policy consistent with the country's international obligations.

Rowley said Government, observing the laws of TT, had been protecting the interest of the people of TT in keeping with all obligations.

"And that is our policy. The Government of TT is not prepared to open any refugee camp in TT to please anybody except the people of TT. And any reference to any shortcoming with respect to other obligations – our primary obligation is to the people of TT."

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath recalled in Parliament a few months ago Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi indicated there was a policy before the Cabinet on refugees, and he asked when the policy will be completed and presented.

Rowley replied: "The business of Cabinet will come to the public upon completion of any such business. Other than that, the business of Parliament is circumscribed by secrecy."

Charles asked why there was not a data-driven refugee policy that recognised the absorptive capacity of the country and was based on international best practice.

Rowley replied: "It is precisely because the Government of TT understands the absorptive capacity of TT on the people of TT why we have conducted ourselves in the way we have and we will not be encouraged to do otherwise from anybody else's interest on behalf of any lackey."
Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked if any comprehensive policy had been considered on the education of the migrant children. Rowley said the National Security Minister addressed the matter early on.

He added: "These are matters that persons in TT must understand require a balancing act. The energy coming to me from the other side is in keeping with statements that they have been making that there is 40,000 and 60,000 and 80,000 Venezuelans here trying to encourage international bodies to pressure TT into converting our country into a refugee camp. You have failed and you will continue to fail."

Charles again raised the issue of the lack of a comprehensive refugee policy in a later question.
Rowley replied: "If we are being called upon to take action the action of the Government of TT is comprehensive in so far as the people are concerned. The only people who can't understand what we are doing are those who will not understand I am sure my colleague will never understand. This comprehensive refugee policy, immigration policy, our immigration policy is governed by the laws that are in place. We have no new policy. And we will not be encouraged to put in place any policy that will give us liabilities that we cannot discharge. We are discharging our liabilities now in the context of the laws on our books and the human condition."
He added: "And whoever is pulling their strings I don't work for them. I work for the people of TT. And the laws of TT might not be comprehensive enough for you but it is comprehensive enough to protect the people of TT from international interference. And we will brook no international interference in TT. We will conduct our affairs in a humane and decent manner and we can stand scrutiny on the four corners of the globe."

Later, while speaking on a bill to exempt Venezuelans from paying into the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Rowley accused the Opposition of inciting citizens against Venezuelan migrants.
Saying TT is making a contribution by helping Venezuelans due to their current circumstances, Rowley said the “conspiracies and devils” seen by Opposition MPs were all merely in their heads.

Saying there is no conspiracy (to supply cheap labour) by blocking Venezuelans from accessing the NIS, he said, “I don’t believe my (Opposition) colleagues really believe what they are saying, but they are saying it to incite the population. Deliberately. Some of them are lawyers and senior counsel, and they are saying it just to incite the population.

“We cannot extricate ourselves from the impact of the Venezuelan situation. But they (Opposition) organised people to come to Parliament to shout ‘Rowley must go.’”
The Opposition denied any links to the protesters outside Parliament yesterday. (With reporting by Sean Douglas)

This story was originally published with the title "PM: Opposition failed to get TT turned into refugee camp" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

THE PRIME Minister says the Opposition has been inflating the figures of Venezuelans in TT and influencing international agencies.

He was responding to prime minister's questions in the House Friday.

Naparima MP Rodney Charles asked why there was not a data-driven refugee policy that recognised the absorptive capacity of the country and was based on international best practice.

Rowley replied: "It is precisely because the Government of TT understands the absorptive capacity of TT on the people of TT why we have conducted ourselves in the way we have, and we will not be encouraged to do otherwise from anybody else's interest on behalf of any lackey."

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked if any comprehensive policy had been considered for the education of the migrant children. Rowley said the National Security Minister had addressed the matter early on.

He added: "These are matters that persons in TT must understand require a balancing act. The energy coming to me from the other side is in keeping with statements that they have been making that there are 40,000 and 60,000 and 80,000 Venezuelans here trying to encourage international bodies to pressure TT into converting our country into a refugee camp. You have failed and you will continue to fail."

He also said the registration process was the first line to gather data and to prevent his Opposition colleagues from spreading misinformation.

"You have to gather data to use data."

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