Children in boats

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

ALL OVER the world, children have borne the brunt of inhumane or unlawful migrant policies.

In 2015, the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach shocked the world, highlighting Europe’s refugee crisis.

Three years later, in a defining moment for the Donald Trump administration, images emerged of children in cages at the US/Mexico border as a result of a “zero tolerance” policy.

Mr Trump is on his way out. It seems this country would like to pick up where he left off.

How else are we to characterise the shocking sequence of events over the weekend, implicating key arms of state, involving 16 Venezuelan children?

The facts are wrapped in confusion. One lawyer described the matter as being conducted in “stealth.”

But what was clear from the High Court proceedings brought on behalf of worried Venezuelan parents this week is that the powerful remedies of the law were no match for a State unable or unmoved to act to protect these children and the women with them.

By the State’s own account, the group were in the custody of the Coast Guard at 9.25 am on Sunday. Less than two hours later, under the aegis of processes and authorities unknown, they were put in boats and, amid rough conditions, taken to sea.

Why? Did no one think of the possible ramifications? What if the boats had met with difficulty? Would this country ever recover from the fallout had any soul perished? Some of the children were reportedly sick.

That the State, in response to questioning from Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams, proved unable to inform the court at midday on Sunday as to the whereabouts of the people in its custody from 9.25 am to 11.20 am speaks to gross incompetence at best and contempt of court at worst.

But instead of providing assurances that an event like this will not recur, National Security Minister Stuart Young – a lawyer by training – yesterday dug in his heels.

“This has nothing to do with humanitarian circumstances,” Mr Young unconvincingly argued. He spoke of “necessary acts” and, perhaps channelling Mr Trump, smeared all Venezuelans crossing the gulf as being part of “human trafficking rings” involving “dangerous” criminals at large.

“You are encouraging people to breach the law,” the minister said. He had little to say about the officials under his remit who apparently evaded a writ of habeas corpus, thereby frustrating the oversight of the court.

The spin will do little to staunch the damage to this country’s reputation.

Already the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees and the Organisation of American States have expressed concern. Yesterday, Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaidó weighed in.

“The world is watching,” Mr Guaidó said, seeing what Mr Young could not.

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