Trinidad not ready to adopt international law for asylum seekers – AG

Refugees during a protest in Trinidad

(Trinidad Guardian) T&T is not ready to make in­ter­na­tion­al law a law here re­gard­ing peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum and refugee sta­tus as it just can­not af­ford too, es­pe­cial­ly with re­gards to hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

Al­ready there are 174,000 T&T cit­i­zens on the data­base of the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion who are say­ing that they are not get hous­ing fast enough “so if we add an­oth­er 100,000 peo­ple to that how do we de­liv­er that…how are you, the tax­pay­ers, foot­ing the bill.”

This was the ma­jor con­cern high­light by the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al, Faris Al-Rawi dur­ing a me­dia con­fer­ence held at the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al and Le­gal Af­fairs in Port-of-Spain.

Al-Rawi was re­spond­ing to state­ments made by Amnesty In­ter­na­tion­al and at­tor­ney Dr Emir Crowne who both point­ed out that the coun­try has laws for refugees as a sig­na­to­ry to the 1951 Refugee Con­ven­tion and its 1967 Pro­to­col.

How­ev­er, Al-Rawi re­it­er­at­ed that those sub­mis­sions should be re­ject­ed out of hand.

He ex­plained that T&T is a “du­al­is­tic” coun­try and for in­ter­na­tion­al law to be­come law it must be en­act­ed by an act of Par­lia­ment, sim­i­lar with the For­eign Ac­count Tax Com­pli­ance Act and Glob­al Fo­rum.

“How could you know that and then make a sub­mis­sion that sign­ing the con­ven­tion, not even rat­i­fy­ing it yet be­cause there is a step to be tak­en, makes it law in T&T? That is to be re­ject­ed out of hand,” Al-Rawi said.

“We have no leg­is­la­tion in T&T. We have not rat­i­fied, we have ac­ced­ed, not rat­i­fied. We have pro­to­cols that are ex­er­cised in con­junc­tion with the UN agency and Liv­ing Wa­ters and we treat with this in the way we are sup­posed too,” he added.

Al-Rawi said that moral­ly speak­ing it is right to make sure peo­ple in dis­tress are con­tin­u­ing not to be in dis­tress but added that as a gov­ern­ment, all bases must be checked.

“Where is the hous­ing com­ing from? Where is the ed­u­ca­tion com­ing from? How is it be­ing paid for? But, you have to ac­tu­al­ly com­ply with the law,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi dis­closed that the UN­HCR is ex­pect­ed to give sta­tis­tics on the in­flow ver­sus the out­flow, “they ac­cept ap­pli­ca­tions, process it and if they ap­prove they then make rec­om­men­da­tions to host coun­tries to move peo­ple out of T&T. That rate of flow out is 20 to 40 peo­ple max­i­mum per year.”

Al-Rawi said that what was need­ed now is for con­ver­sa­tions on what mech­a­nisms can be put in place “to op­er­a­tional­ize this law” which meant pri­or­i­ty hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and health­care.

On Wednes­day, Amnesty In­ter­na­tion­al, who is look­ing on as to how T&T is deal­ing with the Cuban refugees’ is­sue said it is not too pleased.

Eri­ka Gue­vara-Rosas, Amer­i­c­as di­rec­tor at Amnesty In­ter­na­tion­al said T&T must re­spect the fun­da­men­tal hu­man right to seek asy­lum and nev­er re­turn peo­ple to coun­tries where their lives or free­dom are at risk.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tion­al said T&T au­thor­i­ties must stop crim­i­nal­iz­ing the peace­ful protest of mi­grants and refugees and find hu­man rights-based so­lu­tions for them con­sis­tent with its ex­ist­ing oblig­a­tions un­der in­ter­na­tion­al law.

Gue­vara-Rosas said Al-Rawi was “mis­tak­en.” “The At­tor­ney Gen­er­al is mis­tak­en in his un­der­stand­ing of T&T’s oblig­a­tions un­der in­ter­na­tion­al law. Hav­ing ac­ced­ed to the 1951 Refugee Con­ven­tion and its 1967 Pro­to­col, the coun­try is bound by in­ter­na­tion­al law to up­hold the terms of these treaties. This means it must re­spect the fun­da­men­tal hu­man right to seek asy­lum and nev­er re­turn peo­ple to coun­tries where their lives or free­dom are at risk,” Gue­vara-Rosas.

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