UNC MP challenges Young: 'Prove there aren't 100,000 Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago'

Illegal Venezuelan migrants arrive in a pirogue at Los Iros beach in Cedros in November 2020. File photo -
Illegal Venezuelan migrants arrive in a pirogue at Los Iros beach in Cedros in November 2020. File photo -

Naparima MP Rodney Charles has challenged National Security Minister Stuart Young to show evidence that there are not 100,000 Venezuelans living in Trinidad and Tobago.

Young can't because he "simply does not know how many Venezuelans are here," Charles claimed at the United National Congress' (UNC) Pavement Report on Thursday night.

Charles, the first major speaker at the meeting, focused largely on Young's immigration policies.

One flawed policy, he claimed, is that the minister has neglected dozens of TT children and women in Syria who have been detained for their alleged links to terrorism. Charles said Young recently ignored the United Nations and the US government, which he claimed called on the minister to repatriate them.

"If the father did wrong," he said, "don't blame the TT children."

Charles, however, spoke further on the large number of Venezuelan migrants, most of whom he said are unaccounted for by the national security ministry and are living in desperate conditions.

"Make no mistake, we have, based on anecdotal evidence, over 100,000 Venezuelans in our midst, living in inhumane conditions, subject to exploitation in the workplace, human trafficking and extreme poverty."

"He cannot tell me...there are 40,000 or 60,000 because he did not care."

"Does he care that Venezuelan children are not being educated? Does he care that they are not being tested for covid? Does he have a plan to integrate them into society, or alternately, to repatriate them?

He asked whether Young was also able to address how many Venezuelans the country can absorb, whether children born to Venezuelan immigrants have the rights of citizenship and to not be discriminated against.

Charles also challenged Young and his ministry's efficacy with state resources, given the concerns about illicit trade passing through south-west Trinidad.

He spoke about the working status of CCTV cameras, the 360-degree national surveillance system and the frequency of coast guard patrols, and asked if officers assigned to the "billion-dollar SSA (Strategic Services Agency) have taken time off of spying on the Opposition to find out who, among us, is facilitating human trafficking in Cedros."

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