SIXTEEN groups – comprising both local and foreign NGOs – have written to the Prime Minister calling on this country to fulfil its domestic and international obligations to protect the rights of children and to protect foreigners seeking safety from danger.
A copy of the letter was e-mailed to Newsday on Wednesday by Denise Pitcher, executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, one of the signatories to the letter.
The groups' letter comes after 16 children and nine adults, who were deported by boat on Sunday, returned to Trinidad on Tuesday and are now legally fighting the deportation order. Among those returning on Tuesday was a four-month-old baby.
The return of the group, the letter said, gives Dr Rowley and his government a second chance to uphold domestic and international obligations pertaining to the rights of children and refugees. The letter called for the government to immediately reunite the children with their families, grant them access to apply for asylum, screen them to determine if they have been trafficked and provide medical attention.
The group said some 50 children have been deported from Trinidad and Tobago this year, despite this country being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires countries to act in the best interest of children and refrain from detaining them, according to international law, and prohibits deporting them to situations where they could face ill-treatment or danger.
"We wish to remind your government that many countries have successfully established practices to ensure asylum seekers are exempt from entry bans in accordance with international law while also being screened effectively and given access to medical care," the group said, as it added the current pandemic ought not to be a reason to deny access to asylum.
In calling for TT to grant legal residency to the Venezuelans, the joint letter said while the world lives in complicated times owing to the pandemic, "It remains the obligation of world leaders such as yourself to uphold the rights of all people, including children. As other Latin American countries have done, we ask TT to find shared solutions and resources to respond to and help people fleeing Venezuela."
The groups in the joint letter are: Acceso a la Justicia; Acción Solidaria; Amnistía Internacional; Asylum Access; Aula Abierta; the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights; Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz; CIVILIS Derechos Humanos; Clínica Jurídica de Migrantes y Refugiados de la Universidad Diego Portales (Chile); Comisión Nacional de DDHH de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela del estado Táchira; Derechos Humanos Con DR Corp; Families in Action; FundaRedes; Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC; Refugees International; and the Ryu Dan Dojo Empowerment Foundation.