FRUSTRATED, wet, tired and angry Venezuelans yesterday had one question for the government: ¿Que sigue? (what next?)
Saying they felt as if they were tricked, the migrants said they waited at the crack of dawn, some as early as 4 am, outside the Immigration office in San Fernando as per instructions given to them last Friday at the Achievors Banquet Hall in Duncan Village when the official two-week registration for government’s amnesty programme ended.
Tired and many almost reduced to tears as they stood in the pouring rain on Knox Street outside the office, the migrants said they waited for hours hoping to continue the registration drive.
They said the police told them last Friday, to go to the Immigration office on Monday to continue the registration process. However, they were not processed and by 4 pm, when no official word came from anyone, they left, many confused as to their next move.
Ironically, while the migrants waited yesterday to be registered, a police maxi-taxi arrived outside the very Immigration office with police officers herding Venezuelans who were arrested over the weekend for illegally entry into the Immigration office to be processed for either charges or for deportation.
One migrant who did not want to give his name said: “I spoke to an immigration officer who told me that we have absolutely no chance whatsoever. They at this department did not have the power to continue with the registration. The information police gave to come here to continue the process last Friday was fake. We were tricked!”
Shortly after 6 pm last Friday, police through interpreter, Andreina Briceno-Brown, told the migrants that the doors to the San Fernando centre had closed.
As such, the interpreter said, according to police instructions, they can continue the process at Immigration on weekdays during office hours.
Newsday spoke to a Trinidadian yesterday who said a police officer told him the announcement was made last Friday so that the large crowd could disperse without incident.
Members of the media also waited yesterday for several hours to see if the migrants would be processed. The lucky few were allowed shelter in nearby businessplaces. Other huddled under umbrellas. The rest stood in the pouring rain, unwilling to give up their space in the line.
Speaking in Spanish, another migrant said: “Immigration officials are not telling us anything. The security officers do not want us on the compound. We have nowhere to shelter so we have to wait on the street. What is next? What to do?”
Another shouted: “I have been here since 4.30 am and no one has come out to tell us anything officially. One Trinidadian went inside to find out. They told her the registration ended on Friday and they would not be attending to us. The workers said they did not know about the continuation of the process.”
Several of the migrants showed Newsday their completed pre-register online forms saying they are trying to follow all the rules stipulated by government. They fear the authorities would now arrest and deport them.
They said the economic crisis is worsening and Venezuelans are fleeing daily, many international refugee protections from agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees commonly referred to as UNHCR. National Security Minister Stuart Young has publicly said after the two-week period ended on Friday, government reverts to the law. Attempts to contact Young as well as chief immigration officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews for comments were unsuccessful. Govt has estimated that roughly 13,000 to 14,500 Venezuelans have registered.
This story was originally published with the title "Confusion at Immigration Department San F'do" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
VENEZUELAN immigrants are waiting in the rain on Knox Street, San Fernando, outside the Immigration Division hoping to continue the registration drive. This after they were instructed by police last Friday to return on Monday.
However, they were not being processed and confused Venezuelans are demanding answers.
One said: “At the registration centre on Friday evening at Achievors Banquet Hall, the immigration officers told us to come here to complete the process. Now, they are not telling us anything. The security officers do not want us on the compound. We have to wait on the street.”
Shortly after 6 pm on Friday, police through interpreter, Andreina Briceno-Brown told the migrants that the doors to the San Fernando centre had closed. As such, the interpreter said, according to police instructions, they can continue the process at Immigration on weekdays during office hours.
Another immigrant said: “I have been here since 4.30 am and no one has come out to tell us anything officially. One Trinidadian went inside to find out. They told her the registration ended on Friday and they would not be attending to us. The workers said they did not know about the continuation of the process.”
Newsday spoke to a Trinidadian who said a police officer told him the announcement was made for the crowds to be dispersed. South Western Division police dropped off about 20 women and children held over the weekend for entering the country illegally.