Grandmother and child separated after Trinidad coastguard blocks 2 boatloads of Venezuelans

Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard vehicles at the Cedros jetty on Wednesday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Over 90 Venezue­lan pas­sen­gers try­ing to get in­to Trinidad & Tobago through the Ce­dros port were turned back by T&T Coast Guard as pa­trols on the bor­der height­ened yes­ter­day.

With in­ten­si­fied street protests and vi­o­lent clash­es on the streets of Venezuela, hun­dreds of des­per­ate Venezue­lans have found the fresh re­solve to flee their home­land. And T&T is seen as one of the eas­i­er des­ti­na­tions to ac­cess via boat.

A source who re­quest­ed anonymi­ty said two fer­ries – Orinoco Delta and An­gel – were sched­uled to ar­rive at the Ce­dros port yes­ter­day. The Orinoco Delta was trans­port­ing 60 pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing one Trinida­di­an man with his pass­port. The An­gel had 35 pas­sen­gers, which in­clud­ed two Venezue­lan women who are mar­ried to Trinida­di­an men and an el­der­ly Venezue­lan woman who had a Trinida­di­an pass­port and was ac­com­pa­nied by a child be­lieved to be her grand­son.

The source said up­on reach­ing about two miles off the Ce­dros coast, the T&T Coast Guard in­ter­cep­tor stopped the An­gel. They de­tained the pas­sen­gers at sea for more than an hour, pe­rus­ing doc­u­ments. All of the Venezue­lans were sent back ex­cept the grand­moth­er and the two women with Trinida­di­an hus­bands. The grand­moth­er was dis­traught that the grand­son was sep­a­rat­ed from her, the source added.

The An­gel had been reg­is­tered to dock at the Ce­dros port, the source added.

The Orinoco Delta, which nor­mal­ly comes to Ce­dros port at least three times per week, was al­so stopped by the Coast Guard. For more than an hour the ves­sel stayed out at sea. The lone Trinida­di­an was tak­en back to the port via the Coast Guard ves­sel but af­ter an hour of de­ten­tion, the fer­ry with al­most 60 pas­sen­gers was al­so sent back to Venezuela by the TTCG.

“No in­struc­tions were giv­en to Cus­toms and of­fi­cers were lat­er briefed. It is not usu­al for the fer­ries to be sent back be­cause Venezue­lans come here to shop for ba­sic gro­ceries and med­i­cine to take back to their fam­i­lies,” the source added.

At the Ce­dros coast, dozens of peo­ple wait­ed for the fer­ries to dock up to 4.30 pm. It was through What­sApp that some of them learned the Coast Guard had de­tained the fer­ries.

One man who took videos of the Coast Guard was warned by CG of­fi­cers who threat­ened to ar­rest him if he failed to delete the video.

Con­tact­ed for com­ment on the in­ci­dent, Ce­dros coun­cil­lor Shankar Teelucks­ingh said he was puz­zled by the de­vel­op­ments. He said the Coast Guard should have in­formed the fer­ry own­ers that they were not al­lowed to en­ter the Ce­dros port pri­or to their de­par­ture in Venezuela. How­ev­er, Teelucks­ingh said the Coast Guard should fo­cus on crack­ing down on the il­le­gal en­try of Venezue­lans.

“This kind of thing will cause Venezue­lans to choose the il­le­gal way to en­ter rather than the le­gal way,” he added.

Teelucks­ingh al­so said a bet­ter lock­down of the bor­ders was need­ed for the boats bring­ing in il­le­gal mi­grants.

Con­tact­ed for com­ment yes­ter­day, Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer of the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard, Lt Ker­ron Valere, said a state­ment will be is­sued pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Since ten­sions es­ca­lat­ed in Venezue­lan in Jan­u­ary, hun­dreds of Venezue­lans have been en­ter­ing T&T through sev­er­al points in the south­ern coast. These in­clude Gal­fa Point, Carlise Yrace, Coro­man­del, Chatham, Green Hill, Ica­cos, Colum­bus Bay and Fullar­ton Beach.

The for­eign­ers are dropped off on the beach­es and hide out in the forests at nights and by 5 am they are picked up in maxi taxis by Trinida­di­an men.

Venezue­lans nor­mal­ly spend be­tween $1,500 to $2,000 to get to Trinidad. The fees are paid in US and are non-re­fund­able. It is es­ti­mat­ed that there are be­tween 40,000 to 50,000 Venezue­lans liv­ing il­le­gal­ly in T&T. An es­ti­mat­ed 700 Venezue­lans come through the Ce­dros port week­ly.

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