Hinds defends heliport as migrant detention centre

The relatives regretted the deportation of the 97 Venezuelans - Grevic Alvarado
The relatives regretted the deportation of the 97 Venezuelans - Grevic Alvarado

NATIONAL Security Fitzgerald Hinds defended the use of the heliport in Chaguaramas as an immigration detention centre.

On Sunday, he also said allegation of inhumane treatment and various violations of human rights are under investigation.

“A joint select committee of the Parliament visited that place. That is a place where we have hosted people all through covid19,” he said in a telephone interview.

On Saturday, 97 illegal Venezuelan migrants were deported after spending about three weeks at the heliport after they were held at a bar in St James on July 9.

During their detention, they embarked on a hunger strike and complained of conditions at the heliport. The facility was deemed an immigration detention centre on July 26, after the courts held it was not so designated by law. This led to a handful of illegal migrants being freed. Another larger group of about 30 were also released when the High Court ordered them to be put on conditional release until their lawsuit challenging aspects of their detention was determined.

Hinds told Newsday, complaints of violations or inhumane treatment made in their court actions were not tested factually.

He also said the 30 or so illegal migrants who were released were now hiding from the authorities and are now considered to be at large.

The minister said the security forces will now have to spend time and money to search for them.

“We would have told the court that the experience of the immigration division is, in many cases, when you release people on orders of supervision they do not show up for their appointed dates and therefore they melt...They disappear.”

“Then you have the trouble of finding them again. You find them after sometimes costly background checks and investigation.”

He also said of the 207 migrants who were held on July 9, some were assessed and released after it was determined they entered TT legally.

All those who were deported were on deportation orders which had not been set aside by the court.

Hinds also addressed a call by attorney Criston J Williams, who represented some of the migrants, to shut down the heliport and hold a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations of abuse, including rape, at the facility.

He said this was not necessary.

However, Williams said, "A year and a half ago there was a report that children were being abused inside there. Where is that report? Then up to July there was a report about a rape victim...A young lady who was held in there. Where is that report? All the other allegations where are the reports?

"Has Minister Hinds produced one piece of paperwork before a joint select committee to say that the heliport is a perfectly operating place and is satisfied that people operating there – men guarding women – that he is satisfied that is good.”

“The government may want to put more people in the heliport but this inquiry must be done and then post that you could probably want to reuse it to put people inside there,” he said.

“But until that happens, you shall continue to have allegations of gross violations of human rights at the heliport facility.”


"Hinds defends heliport as migrant detention centre"

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