Trapped in limbo

WHEN IT comes to managing this country’s response to the Venezuelan crisis, the Prime Minister does not have it easy.

Dr Rowley is already tasked with steering this country through its most challenging financial crisis in a generation and he is rightly concerned about the numbers. None can question his calculation that an island of 1.4 million might easily be overwhelmed by a wave of migration from a country of 34 million.

However, the PM yesterday struck the wrong note in breaking his silence over the ongoing saga of 16 Venezuelan children and others which has triggered local and international concern.

Dr Rowley directed his outrage not at immigration officials and Cabinet members who oversee them, but at international agencies who played no role in the weekend’s events.

Though the Prime Minister likes to espouse a neutral, non-interventionist stance when it comes to the Nicol├ís Maduro regime, he had no qualms in wading into the Organisation of American States (OAS). He fingered “nameless, faceless people armed with innocent children” trying to open our borders to drug dealers, gun runners, human traffickers and the like.

At the same time, he asked the population, without irony, to continue to be “humane.”

The PM boasted TT had “facilitated” 16,000 Venezuelan migrants who were allowed to register – in a process that was arguably as inhumane as it was arbitrary.

Though he confirmed for the first time that those individuals will be allowed to remain, the backhand manner in which he did so underlined that up to this point the Government’s “policy” has been piecemeal, secretive and outwardly capricious.

Is that being humane?

Dr Rowley cannot have it both ways. He cannot keep his Cabinet’s position on these migrants in his back pocket until the last minute (migrant registration expires on December 31) and, at the same time, expect the world to know of this country’s benevolence.

The simple truth is, the State has a special duty of care when it comes to children in its custody, whatever their status, visa or no visa. That duty does not vanish because of border controls. Nor in the face of imagined geopolitical conspiracies.

Meanwhile, the State would do well to consider the order made by High Court Justice Joan Charles, hours before Dr Rowley’s comments, in which she ordered the release of a separate group of ten Venezuelan children who were being held in Chaguaramas.

That order confirmed that while the legal status of Venezuelan minors is to be adjudicated on, the authorities must hold their hand.

Seemingly trapped in a watery limbo, lawyers for the other 16 children were yesterday once more seeking their own judicial clarity on these matters.

But given Dr Rowley’s position, it is far from clear when or how the end will really come for their desperate plight.

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