T&T National Security Minister vows to fix problems at immigration detention centre

(Trinidad Guardian) Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon on Saturday admitted that there are major issues affecting the smooth running of the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo, chief among them being the repatriation of detainees who have been there for several years.

In a release yesterday in response to two separate incidents involving detainees at the facility last week, Dillon said the IDC has encountered challenges in repatriating detainees.

“Many continue to refuse to provide accurate identification information such as their name, country of birth and their travel documents. Some, as well, have raised legal challenges against their repatriation,” Dillon said.

“In addition, some countries are not always willing to land deportees in transition, which creates difficulties in sourcing cost-effective landing routes that would allow for their eventual return home. This contributes to delays in repatriating many detainees, particularly those from far off destinations.”

He, however, assured that the situation at the IDC “is under control, following protest action taken by a small group of detainees”.

He also assured the ministry is working assiduously to make arrangements to repatriate detainees to their homeland, as well as improve living conditions at the facility.

Over the past few months, the ministry spent more than $1 million on the refurbishment, upgrade and outfitting of the facility, he said. He said he was also working “closely with foreign missions and embassies in order to secure the true identity of the detainees so that the Government of T&T can repatriate them to their country of birth in the shortest possible time”.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan detainees at the IDC are desperately calling for compassion by the authorities, as some of them claim to be very ill and in desperate need of the necessary medical care.

Statistics reaching the Sunday Guardian reveal that currently there are at least 57 Venezuelan nationals awaiting repatriation, including 27 women.

One of the female detainees told the Sunday Guardian she had a disability and in need of special treatment.

“I came to T&T as a medical refugee seeking medical treatment for my condition and I was held from a house by the police and put in here. The only thing is I applied for asylum and still I am here facing deportation. I cannot sleep because of the strong pains and I am not being treated…I’m going to die in here.”

Another, a male detainee, said his wife has cancer and his 19-year-old son suffers from epilepsy.

“I came here and applied for asylum but I confess I bring my wife and son illegally in here for medical treatment and now all of us are detained,” he said.

“It is 15 days now and my wife has not gotten any cancer treatment and they only give she Panadol and no doctor. My son having seizures and only Panadol…no doctor.”

Another male detainee said he suffers from a kidney condition that has him urinating blood.

“They only giving me Panadol. I applied for asylum and still detained in here waiting for an official from the UNHCR to visit me.”

Last week in two separate incidents, detainees staged protests to highlight their frustration at the slow repatriation process. Immigration officers were allegedly confronted during one of them and last Thursday, riot police were called in to quell a riot started by African detainees. About ten African were taken into police custody and subsequently charged following that incident.


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