WE WELCOME the clarification provided by Minister of National Security Stuart Young in relation to the fate of thousands of Venezuelans who were granted an initial six-month amnesty pursuant to the registration process undertaken last year. The decision to make extension of registration cards automatic for another six months is a practical and compassionate bligh, amid the very serious challenges posed by this situation.
The automatic extension gives the State more time to learn lessons from the initial period in which snags to the process reportedly emerged, particularly with regard to communications. It also introduces an element of certainty in a situation in which Venezuelans – and indeed local business – have been unsure as to the way forward beyond the initial six-month period.
At the same time, the reports of cards being left uncollected then collected more or less on the eve of the expiry of the initial six-month period need to be studied. Was there some problem with regard to communications? Or were applicants reluctant to collect?
There may well be legitimate reasons for the latter, given the aura of fear and uncertainty that has, for some, dogged the process so far. Some have also claimed they could not afford transportation costs to the immigration offices in Port of Spain. That seems an incredible claim to make until we consider the very real economic constraints faced by these individuals who may have assumed they would have received some sort of official notice indicating their cards were ready for collection.
Whatever happened, the matter is now water under the bridge with the addition of an automatic six-month period. However, this does raise the question of whether six months is an adequate length of time going forward.
Perhaps instead of a piecemeal authorisation process, the State should consider granting permits of one year or up to a period that makes allowances for the very real technocratic hindrances that can often accompany our public sector operations. Furthermore, difficulties of language as well as the expense involved in processing each and every application from the start every six months might be factors weighing in favour of a longer term.
It is clear the State’s processes have been tested, logistically, politically and even diplomatically by all of these events. Moving forward, there will have to be some concession to the need to not have these individuals in a permanent state of limbo as they grapple with the very real challenges of having fled their troubled homeland.
It is a mark of this country’s openness and compassion that we have, at least on a social level, largely welcomed our sisters and brothers in their time of need. We must, however, improve our processes and introduce even greater levels of certainty when it comes to our overall Venezuela policy moving ahead.