Venezuelan ‘policy’ crystal clear

November 2020 file photo of Venezuelans onboard a pirogue making its way to Los Iros beach in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Lincoln Holder
November 2020 file photo of Venezuelans onboard a pirogue making its way to Los Iros beach in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Lincoln Holder

MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds’s suggestion that the Government has no long-term plans to deal with Venezuelan migrants, apart from allowing them to be registered annually, is truly disappointing.

On Tuesday, Mr Hinds replied to queries at a media briefing at his ministry by saying the Government’s policy was “very clear.”

“We offered registration, acceptance of the Venezuelans and other nationals of other countries who were here in 2018,” Mr Hinds said. “We invited them all to come into our house to remain here, we shall give you rest. We offered that, that’s the policy.”

If some were tempted to regard these remarks as facetious, that possibility was immediately dispelled when the minister added: “The policy is clear: those persons who are legally here, including those who are re-registered, there is no issue. But (in the case of) those who are illegally in TT, the immigration laws of TT are expected to operate.”

It is troubling that two years after this issue erupted, in the process highlighting a range of deficiencies in our official refugee policies and procedures, this country will this month observe International Migrants Day without making faster progress on these issues. Worse is the insinuation that the State lacks any resolve to tackle more meaningfully some of the distressing humanitarian aspects of this situation.

Not only is December the month in which we observe International Migrants Day, it is also the month in which we commemorate Human Rights Day.

With widespread concern about the treatment of children in our society a matter of particularly deep concern, given a series of disturbing events recently, Mr Hinds did not seem adequately to acknowledge the full complexity of the Venezuelan migrant experience, an experience which has thus far placed incredible pressures on Venezuelan children and their families.

The minister passed the buck when asked about Venezuelan students being given places in local schools, saying the matter was one for the Ministry of Education, even as reports suggest his ministry plays a role in authorisation to enter the system.

Ironically, Mr Hinds committed to doing anything that is allowed “in accordance with the Government’s policy,” even though he himself had moments earlier suggested that that policy has limits. (In 2019, the Government did approach denominational school boards on this matter, but this process has been left in limbo with state approval apparently outstanding.)

But if the State is falling short on this matter, it has seemingly decided not even to bother to address the troubling legal and moral questions raised by the forced separation and deportation of Venezuelan children, of which its officials have been repeatedly guilty.

Mr Hinds is right: the policy of the State is crystal clear in its unwillingness to engage meaningfully with any of these issues.


"Venezuelan ‘policy’ crystal clear"

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