The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) says it has consistently acknowledged the challenges the government of Trinidad and Tobago faces in dealing with the influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees to our shores.
In a media release posted to their Facebook page the organization said it recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has added several global challenges, which impairs persons ability to effectively respond to the crisis.
However, CCHR said “these challenges do not excuse us from our commitments to our international obligations and our commitments to defend and protect human rights. Indeed, human rights are also integrated into our Constitution and laws.”
In light of the comments made by the Prime Minister yesterday with respect to the Organization of American States (OAS), the CCHR said “we would like to remind the government and the public that we are still bound to our international obligations as a member of the OAS and the human rights principles that it espouses.”
These principles the CCHR said should continue to guide actions as the world respond to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
”It is possible to secure our borders, protect our national security, mitigate the strain on our economy and preserve relationships with our international partners whilst honoring our obligations under international law. Protecting vulnerable people fleeing a desperate humanitarian crisis does not have to be a zero sum game.”
“The Refugee Convention places expectations on its signatories to protect asylum seekers’ and refugee rights however it also offers avenues to a state that is struggling to honor its obligations under the Convention and provide international protection.”
“The Convention recognizes that the burdens of providing international protection may be too great for some states to bear on their own. This is acknowledged in its Preamble where it states that ‘the grant of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation’. Based on this principle we urge the government of Trindad and Tobago to seek the help of its CARICOM brothers and sisters and the wider international community to manage the crisis.”
Trinidad and Tobago sits next door to one of the worst human rights and humanitarian crises in modern history – basic necessities are out of reach for many Venezuelans and the healthcare system is almost non-existent.
”The Venezuelan government continues to engage in systematic human rights atrocities against its own people as has been graphically detailed in the United Nations Human Rights Council report. A recent Reuters report provides additional evidence of the targeting and victimization of Venezuelans in the form of “hate laws” designed to suffocate the voices of anyone who dares to challenge the regime. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also recently concluded based on its investigations, a reasonable basis to prosecute Venezuelan government officials including President Maduro of crimes against humanity.”
“Trinidad and Tobago must do all that it can, taking into consideration the guidance and support that is at our disposal, to protect vulnerable persons seeking international protection, engage in efforts to eradicate the scourges of human trafficking and smuggling and save lives. All options have not been exhausted. And so we reiterate our call to the government of Trinidad and Tobago to consider exploring the option of a burden sharing agreement with other CARICOM members and the wider international community.”
“The benefits would be two fold – the establishment of a proper response to the humanitarian crisis, which it appears, is too much for Trinidad and Tobago to bear alone and the opportunity to save face and restore the international community’s faith in Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to honor its international obligations and protect human rights. We also call on CARICOM leadership to recognize that there needs to be a regional approach to this crisis and support the efforts of the Trinidad and Tobago government to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred last Sunday with the drownings of Venezuelan migrants.”
The CCHR said “deporting persons back to the risky situation from which they fled is inhumane and conflicts with our obligations under international human rights law. It is not the solution to deal with the humanitarian crisis. Criminalization of the asylum process, where persons are deported based on irregular entry, places vulnerable persons at further risk.”
”The protection of human rights should be the foundation of the government’s response to manage this crisis. And so as we commemorate International Migrants Day, we encourage the government to reaffirm its commitment to allow safe, dignified and humane routes to seek protection.”