(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.