Convicts from Latin America coming to Trinidad pos­ing as Venezue­lans

From left, Chief Immigration Officer (Ag.) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews and Immigration Officer IV- Enforcement Unit Gewan Harricoo, during JSC yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Na­tion­als from Pe­ru, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colom­bia with a string of crim­i­nal records have been com­ing to Trinidad pos­ing as Venezue­lans.

The rev­e­la­tion was made be­fore yes­ter­day’s Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee in­to Fi­nance and Le­gal Af­fairs chaired by Sophia Chote, SC.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore the com­mit­tee were of­fi­cials of the Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion and Vi­sion of Mis­sion.

The com­mit­tee was told by Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Gee­wan Har­ri­coo that in 2016 2,000 for­eign na­tion­als were placed on or­ders of su­per­vi­sion by im­mi­gra­tion while in 2017 the fig­ure dropped to 1,600.

Last year, it was 2,000. As of this year, there was a record of 200 new na­tion­als.

Such na­tion­als are re­quired to re­port to im­mi­gra­tion.

“What you are find­ing, in most of the cas­es, is there is an al­most 50 per cent breach of that or­der of su­per­vi­sion. When we check our bor­der man­age­ment sys­tems they are in the coun­try but they are not re­port­ing to us. They are work­ing with­out a work per­mit and study­ing with­out a stu­dent per­mit,” Har­ri­coo said.

Some of these na­tion­als, Har­ri­coo said would be picked up fol­low­ing a po­lice raid on­ly for im­mi­gra­tion to find out that they have “mul­ti­ple crim­i­nal of­fences” which are com­mit­ted in our shores.

Act­ing Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Char­maine Gand­hi-An­drews said the elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem can be use­ful to track such na­tion­als, stat­ing that some of the na­tion­als had “left the coun­try clan­des­tine­ly.”

Vice chair­man Clarence Ramb­harat said the or­der of su­per­vi­sion seemed prob­lem­at­ic.

With 153 for­eign na­tion­als at the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre (IDC) of which 114 are Venezue­lans, Ramb­harat said the cost to main­tain a de­tainee was $8,000 a month.

“So if you had to de­tain all those per­sons from last year…the 2,000 and the 200 from Jan­u­ary we are talk­ing about $219 mil­lion a year. $18 mil­lion a month. So it is a sig­nif­i­cant cost,” Ramb­harat said hy­po­thet­i­cal­ly.

The min­is­ter won­dered why non-cus­to­di­al sen­tenc­ing was not work­ing and could help in re­duc­ing the cost.

A Niger­ian, the com­mit­tee was told has been at the IDC since Jan­u­ary of 2015, oth­ers have been there a year.

Gand­hi-An­drews said costs would al­ways be an is­sue.

“We avoid putting them in­to prison. It is go­ing to es­ca­late. We find that more and more per­sons are com­ing in­to the coun­try and breach­ing the terms and con­di­tions of their land­ing cer­tifi­cate…re­main­ing in the coun­try il­le­gal­ly. More and more you see peo­ple en­ter­ing the coun­try with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion. And that is pro­vid­ing a sig­nif­i­cant headache for us be­cause there is nowhere to keep them,” she said.

She said im­mi­gra­tion has been pro­vid­ing the for­eign­ers with the or­ders be­cause of lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion which has not been an ide­al sit­u­a­tion.

She said ap­prox­i­mate­ly 500 have breached the Im­mi­gra­tion Act.

Chote said if there is no stay of ex­e­cu­tion or civ­il pro­ceed­ings in court “noth­ing pre­vents you from de­port­ing the per­son.”

She asked how im­mi­gra­tion was deal­ing with the ex­o­dus from Venezuela ask­ing if the 114 Venezue­lans at the IDC had com­mit­ted crim­i­nal of­fences and ap­plied for refugee sta­tus.

Har­ri­coo ad­mit­ted that “100 per cent ar­rived by clan­des­tine means.”

Among those who do not come through the le­gal ports of en­try as well are chil­dren.

“And a sig­nif­i­cant amount, if not all, we can­not iden­ti­fy. They are com­ing to Trinidad with­out any doc­u­ments. What we are find­ing they are not Venezue­lans in some cas­es. They are pos­ing as Venezue­lans. They are a lot of na­tion­al­i­ties that are com­ing to Trinidad pos­ing as Venezue­lans…Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Colom­bians and even some from Pe­ru. It takes a lot of ef­fort and time to try and iden­ti­fy these peo­ple,” Har­ri­coo said.

Har­ri­coo al­so dis­closed im­mi­gra­tion has al­so dis­cov­ered that “these per­sons al­so have sig­nif­i­cant crim­i­nal an­tecedents in their home­land and we get that through our part­ner­ship with the In­ter­pol Bu­reau.”

He said the court or­dered that three chil­dren be placed in the care of the Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer and be repa­tri­at­ed im­me­di­ate­ly.

Gand­hi-An­drews the chil­dren had to be placed at the IDC among adults.

Find­ing funds to repa­tri­ate the chil­dren, she said was an­oth­er headache as her bud­get does not cater for this.

“Some of my of­fi­cers in cer­tain cas­es have ac­tu­al­ly put up mon­ey and bought a tick­et,” she said.

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