PRIME Minister Dr Rowley says government with be sending a formal complaint to the UK government over a video aired by the BBC, which Rowley claimed inaccurately misrepresented the country’s position on the Venezuela immigration crisis.
The documentary revealed TT turned away thousands of Venezuelans hoping to register during the two week amnesty period in June.
Rowley, speaking at a media conference on Monday afternoon after his three-day visit to Washington, said during his visit discussions on the Venezuelans crisis were on the front burner. He claimed TT was applauded for its attempt to assist refugees fleeing that South American country.
He was shocked to learn that after the country was applauded for its relief assistance, a 14-minute video entitled "The Displaced: When 40, 000 desperate Venezuelans hit a tiny island", was released on the internet on Sunday. The video highlighted clashes between protesters calling for the government to close the country’s borders to Venezuelan refugees.
The video included a clip of Rowley saying TT cannot be the solution to “millions or 100,000 migrants leaving Venezuela.” BBC stated that attempts were made to organise an interview with the government on rumours that it violated its commitment to international humanitarian law.
This came after rumours of refuges holding approved asylum status from the UN refugee Agency were being deported. The video mentioned TT turning away 25,000 of the 40,000, living in TT, from registering. But according to Rowley, “The BBC is too sacred to us - the Commonwealth - for that nonsense to go on. We are small but we are not insignificant and whatever we do, we don’t mind you saying we have done it but we don’t want you misrepresenting us in this very dangerous world.”
Rowley said TT has been facing the Venezuelan crisis openly creating a solution to allow illegal refuges to live and work in the country for one year. He said after discussions with the Cabinet, an amnesty period of two weeks was given to all Venezuelans to come forward.
When registered migrants will have access to free education and health along with employment for one year. Those who were successfully screened during the registration process and were not found to have a criminal background received a registration card.
He said all migrants who came forward were registered. “We offered if any others turned up by the following Sunday we were going to continue over the weekend. That didn’t happen so it is quite wrong for the BBC to put a programme out there saying we have 40,000 Venezuelans here and only registered 16,000 and we didn’t allow 14,000 to be registered.”
Rowley said it is unfortunate for those who refused to register and the government gave the Venezuelans living in TT two options; come forward and register or, “you are not welcomed here.”
When asked by the media whether BBC attempted to contact TT government Rowley said there was no reason for the news agency to make any contact on TT’s efforts to assist Venezuelan migrants since they were done publicly.
The production captured the view of a small number of protesters outside the Port of Spain registration booth at the Oval, as TT's position on the issue, Rowley said this was inaccurate because “the vast majority of people in TT were for the government’s decision to assist and register Venezuelan migrants.”
He said the BBC didn’t seek an interview with the government and the story told was incomplete. Asked if there is a communication problem to access government officials, he dismissed this saying local reporters have no issues contacting government officials and foreign reporters don’t have any issue either.