Venezuelan community calls for solutions for migrants

In this June 2, 2019 file photo, Venezuelans line up outside the Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain to be registered under the TT government amnesty.
In this June 2, 2019 file photo, Venezuelans line up outside the Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain to be registered under the TT government amnesty.

The Venezuelan community in Trinidad and Tobago supports opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's call for the government to integrate Venezuelan migrants and their children into society and receive legal entitlements.

But they want concrete solutions.

In a statement, Persad-Bissessar called for the government to regularise those who have immigrant cards and do not have a criminal record, pay all taxes and contribute to the NIS. She said they should be allowed to obtain driver's licences, education for their children and health services like TT nationals.

Persad-Bissessar said the time has come to treat all Venezuelan migrants as human beings worthy of respect and equal opportunities.

The suggestions were well received by Venezuelans here, but they asked for their situations not to be politicised, and want quick, definite solutions.

Andreina Briceño Ventura-Brown, director of the Arima La Casita Hispanic Cultural Centre, told Newsday on Wednesday the migrants' situation has been extensively discussed with the government. All parties have made efforts, she saidbut more is still needed to achieve solutions.

There are many international institutions that liaise between the government and the migrants.

"These non-governmental organisations are working hard so the migrants can be incorporated into the growth and development of this country. Migrants want to be part of the development to help the country grow.

"There are areas that have solutions. For example, in education, the Catholic Church has a number of places available in its schools for Venezuelan children, and they are only waiting for the government to expedite the permits and they can enter the educational system."

She believes leaving children without an education makes them vulnerable and is a ticking time bomb that can go off and will affect everyone.

Meanwhile, "There are brilliant Venezuelan children who can give TT a promising future by doing productive things."

Ventura-Brown cited the Dominican Republic as an example where very good policies on Venezuelan migrants have contributed to boosting the local economy.

"Venezuela and TT have a long history in common of supporting each other. Venezuela once received hundreds of Trinidadian migrants and treated them very well. It is only right that now the Venezuelans her receive the same support," she said.

Ventura-Brown agrees Venezuelans legalised here can be incorporated into the tax payment system and receive the social benefits they deserve.

She said she has been working to help Venezuelans get driver's permits, but there has been no progress.

Yesenia González, an activist for the human rights of migrants in TT, said she has personally spoken with both government and opposition representatives about the opportunities Venezuelan migrants should legally have.

González said there are hundreds of professional migrants in various areas and they can contribute positively to TT society.

"TT signed international agreements and gave humanitarian protection to migrants, but here, unfortunately, they have not been given the correct treatment.

"There are people who come to work and protect their children. They left Venezuela because the economic and social situation forced them to."

González said she agrees with investigating migrants who have committed crimes and applying the law to them, but the rest should receive dignified treatment.

"The issue of education for migrant children is sad. Children have human rights and should be received in schools, but they are even being tried and deported as criminals and it is not legal or fair.

She called on both the government and the opposition to jointly analyse support measures for migrants and regularisation so they can advance for the sake of their own personal development and TT.

"Many migrants came to TT for a period of time, not to stay. They will surely return to their country. We in TT must take advantage of good migrants and give them real opportunities."


"Venezuelan community calls for solutions for migrants"

More in this section