Judge orders release of Venezuelan mother and child

ANOTHER High Court judge has ordered the release of two more Venezuelans from the State’s detention facility at the heliport in Chaguaramas, by 4 pm on Wednesday.

In a ruling delivered late on Tuesday, Justice Nadia Kangaloo ordered that the mother and child be put under orders of supervision.

The judge was ruling on a writ of habeas corpus filed for the two, who have been at the facility since November.

Their lawyers applied for the writ after the National Security Minister issued deportation orders for them in January, despite the State's having given an undertaking not to deport them until their constitutional claims were heard and determined.

In her decision, Kangaloo said there would be no detriment if the two were released, since the State had advanced in its evidence the costs associated with housing them on a monthly basis. Their conditional release, along with that of scores of others, is dependent on the outcome of a constitutional claim which has been docketed to Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams.

Kangaloo said the State had not advanced, in evidence, any cogent reason for believing that the mother and child will contribute to the risk to national security or the country’s financial constraints.

She said while she appreciated the peculiar and challenging circumstances facing the State owing to the covid19 pandemic, and its duty to protect TT citizens, she could not take the “big-picture” approach to the detention of the two.

“The court finds that while the initial detention of the applicants may have been lawful, in the circumstances of this particular case, their continued detention is not.

‘The State cannot effect the deportation of the applicants at this time, as there is in place an injunction from my learned sister preventing this. It would be presumptuous of the State to insist that it can detain these applicants pending deportation when that deportation is itself subject to the outcome of the constitutional motion. In effect, the State is asking this court to permit the applicants to be detained indefinitely.

“The court asks itself how such a continued detention can be deemed lawful.”

She said she was not satisfied that it was appropriate to detain the two, especially a child, under conditions that are less than ideal. since the heliport is being used to quarantine migrants.

Kangaloo also said the child was being detained pursuant to an unwritten policy about which the State has failed to give evidence.

The mother and child were among the group of Venezuelans who returned to Trinidad two days after they were escorted out of TT waters by the Coast Guard.

So far almost 20 of them have been ordered released until Quinlan-Williams decides on the constitutional claim.

The attorneys representing a mother and son have appealed another judge’s dismissal of their habeas-corpus application. A similar action is expected to be filed for one woman in the group who tested positive for covid19.

Representing them are attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul. The State was represented by Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, Amirah Rahaman and Hillary Mudeen.

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