(Trinidad Guardian) Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday met with the United Nations Resident Coordinator Richard Blewitt and Protection Officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruben Barbado, over last Saturday’s repatriation of 82 Venezuelans.
The meeting, held at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain head office, was also attended by Permanent Secretary Vel Lewis and Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews. In a release afterwards, the ministry said Dillon and Al-Rawi held the meeting to “correct the misinformation in the public domain” over Government’s handling of the voluntary repatriation of the Venezuelans.
The release noted that Dillon and Al-Rawi pointed out that the T&T Government respects the human rights of any person who seeks asylum here and respects the right of any foreign national to voluntarily return to their country of nationality. It was also reiterated in the meeting that the repatriation exercise was strictly carried out on a voluntary basis in collaboration with Venezuelan Ambassador Coromoto Godoy.
“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago also expressed its commitment to treating all persons humanely and fairly and to upholding its international obligations. At the end of the very cordial meeting, both parties agreed to continue the ethos of collaboration and cooperation. The Government remains cognizant of its responsibility to look after the national security interests of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” the release added. Efforts to reach Godoy for comment yesterday were unsuccessful as calls to her cellphone either went unanswered or straight to voice-mail.
Meanwhile, a Venezuelan resident group here in T&T says their community has been severely traumatised by Saturday’s repatriation exercise, as it seems as though the T&T Government was now very supportive of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Speaking under strict anonymity, however, a group member said they had warned the T&T Government about the influx of Venezuelans years ago.
“Venezuelans are good people that love to work and presently you have many professionals that T&T needs, I think that with sincere cohabitation with NGOs and the Government, this situation of persecution can be avoided. T&T must understand that there are commitments signed with the UN and in this critical moment most honour those agreements,” he said.
He according to information reaching them, the exercise was “no voluntary one” as claimed by the Ministry of National Security. “Most of them I understand were in possession of their asylum certificates and/or have started the process. We are scared as the T&T Government seems to be given the Maduro regime the rights to persecute Venezuelans out of their own country. This is alarming,” the Venezuelan resident said. Godoy also came under fire by Venezuelan nationals resident here in T&T. They alleged the Embassy provides “no assistance whatsoever to Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago.”