A HIGH COURT judge on Saturday stopped the immediate deportation of 19 Venezuelans.
Newsday understands the 19 were among a larger group put on a boat awaiting deportation to Venezuela.
Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams stayed any order of deportation for the 19 who are represented by attorneys Criston J Williams, Kerina Samdeo and Jerome Riley.
The attorneys filed judicial review applications challenging their deportation and detention at the state quarantine facility at the heliport in Chaguaramas.
The judge gave the group permission to file a claim for judicial review and also granted them permission to seek immediate relief, ordering the chief immigration officer to immediately grant the 19 orders of supervision as well as quashing any order of deportation pending their applications with the Living Water Community for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for asylum-seeker status.
Among the declarations the 19 will be able to seek is that the failure of the Minister of National Security to make a decision to quash their orders of deportation in keeping with the national policy for refugees and asylum-seekers affects them.
They also intend to ask for a declaration that the draft national policy to address refugees and asylum-seekers was illegal and irrational to the 1951 UN convention on the status of refugees and its 1967 protocols. The 19 will argue that the failure to make a decision to quash an order of deportation against them was ultra vires Article 33 of the Refugee Convention 1951 which prohibits the refoulment of refugees.
The group is also seeking a declaration that the failure by the chief immigration officer to hold a special inquiry hearing was illegal.
In a separate matter, the group of 23 who were being held at the Erin police station after they returned to Trinidad last Tuesday after spending days at sea when they were “escorted” out of TT maritime waters by Coast Guard last Sunday, were removed to the heliport late Friday.
They are under quarantine orders for 14 days and the court will determine what happens to them after that period expires. Their removal from the station follows the removal of a four-year-old boy, his mother and sister from the police station to the heliport, on Thursday, in keeping with an order from Quinlan-Williams. The State has given an undertaking not to deport the family, but it is not certain if the assurance extends to the other 23.
The family has also been granted UNHCR asylum-seeker status.
Attorneys for the 26 – Gerald Ramdeen, Nafeesa Mohammed, Dayadai Harripaul and Umesh Maharaj – are expected to approach the courts late Saturday in an attempt to get permission for them to be able to communicate with their relatives, most of whom have either UNHCR asylum-seeker status or are in possession of ministerial permits as part of the Government’s amnesty programme.
Newsday was told that early Saturday, a group was expected to be deported to Venezuela which involves them being handed over by Coast Guard officials to the Guardia Nacional at Soldado Rock, a small island off the coast of Icacos near the TT/Venezuela maritime boarder.
On Friday, immigration officials released 17 Venezuelans – 11 children and six adults, two of whom are in their 80s – from the state quarantine facility at the heliport and earlier this week, ten children and four mothers were also ordered released from the facility.
They were placed on orders of supervision but attorneys for the State could not say why they were released.
The 17 are also represented by Williams, Samdeo and Riley and when they appeared before Justice Joan Charles, the judge was told that the Venezuelans were released by immigration division officials. The two elderly Venezuelans were released in the custody of the son of one of them who has an amnesty permit.
The attorneys had asked that their clients be released on supervision orders because they were considered a vulnerable class since they were minors and elderly.
Charles said she was pleased that the group of minors and the elderly were released as it was the “humane thing to do” given their ages and vulnerability.
Earlier in the week, when she released the ten children and four mothers, she said a decision to detain minors set a bad precedent, attracted negative publicity for the country and there must be some type of intervention by the legislative arm of the State to ensure such incidents do not take place again.
On Wednesday, Samdeo wrote to the immigration division asking for disclosure of any policy, written or unwritten, to address refugee/asylum matters in TT; any policy relating to the detention of those deemed vulnerable; and any declaration or notification by the Government that it has denounced the 1951 UN Convention on refugees. They have not received a response but National Security Minister Stuart Young told Parliament on Friday, there was a policy but he could not disclose it since it was subject to court action.
Quinlan-Williams on Wednesday also urged the State to develop a policy for treating with refugees since, according to her, they could not come to the court daily seeking to prevent their deportation.