(Trinidad Guardian) A Venezuelan military aircraft landed at Piarco International Airport yesterday to take back 82 nationals to their homeland.
This was confirmed by National Security Minister Edmund Dillon. The arrangement between both governments–T&T and Venezuela—were finalised on Friday.
The military aircraft, flight number FAV2410, landed at Piarco International Airport South Terminal at 10.51 am from El Libertador Air Base Airport in Palo Negra, Venezuela.
It was agreed that upon instructions by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a military aircraft would be dispatched “for pick-up.”
Just under 40 of those 82 Venezuelan nationals were said to have applied for asylum and refugee status in T&T but according to sources, the certificates they had in their possession were allegedly disregarded by Immigration officers here in T&T.
The Sunday Guardian was reliably informed that the 82 Venezuelan nationals were escorted by Immigration officers to the Venezuelan Embassy on Friday for the processing of the necessary documents for repatriation/travel.
“The operation was supposed to be a covert one but the public got wind of it and this prompted a release from the ministry,” a diplomatic source said.
Shortly before 5 pm yesterday, some 53 men and 29 women were processed by Immigration Officers and Customs and Excise officials at the Southern Terminal at the Piarco International Airport.
In a release issued last evening, the Ministry of National Security said that the Venezuelan nationals were voluntarily repatriated with the assistance of the Ambassador of Venezuela to T&T, Coromoto Godoy.
At that meeting, the release stated, Godoy offered to provide transportation by both sea and air to ensure the successful repatriation of the Venezuelan nationals.
During that meeting Godoy requested that the T&T authorities take the Venezuelan nationals who were being kept at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) to the Venezuelan Embassy in Port-of-Spain to process their travel documents. This exercise was completed on Friday.
“Venezuelan nationals from the IDC—comprising nationals who would have breached this country’s immigration laws and those who have served time in the prisons and were awaiting deportation on the completion of their sentences—were placed on board the aircraft,” the release stated.
Additionally, the release disclosed that over the last two weeks members of the T&T Police Service as well as Immigration officers made several raids in the South where they detained a number of Venezuelan nationals who were in the country illegally, “These Venezuelan nationals were also allowed to leave the country for their homeland with no charges laid against them.”
Yesenia: It’s discriminatory, insensitive, inhumane
Venezuelan-born Psychic and activist Yesenia Gonzalez said she did not know much about the arrangement.
However, the very emotional Gonzalez said that the treatment meted out by Immigration officers and police in T&T towards the Venezuelan nationals were “discriminatory, insensitive, inhumane and uncompassionate.”
“I am being told that people who have certificates that they applied for asylum and refugee status to the Living Water Community are being told that the certificates mean nothing and they are still being detained. It is too much discrimination and a violation of human rights,” Gonzalez said.
Godoy was on site to observe the proceedings along with Chief Immigration Officer, Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews.
Several calls to Godoy’s cell phone yesterday went unanswered.
Earlier this month, during Joint Select Committee meeting on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity at the Parliament Building in Port-of-Spain, Gandhi-Andrews said that to date, approximately 2,000 Venezuelans have applied for asylum in T&T and the numbers are increasing.
Gandhi-Andrews told the committee that Venezuelans have been coming in droves as a result of their country’s current situation.
On a weekly basis, she said between 150 to 200 Venezuelans come to T&T via the sea but noted that based on the numbers seen at the Immigration Detention Centre, the majority of them—at least 90 per cent of those people have entered the country illegally or have a criminal conviction.
Ghandi-Andrews disclosed that between 2014 to 2016, approximately 60,000 Venezuelans came to T&T. In 2016, 28,000 Venezuelan nationals arrived at a legal port of entry.