Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has expressed anger with the judiciary once again, after a group of Venezuelan nationals, who entered the country illegally, were allowed to walk with a slap on the wrist.
On the 20th of March 2021, 26 persons were arrested on Los Iros Beach by officers of the South Western Division. They appeared before the Courts, on Friday 26th March, 2021 when each of the 23 Venezuelans in the group pleaded guilty to two offences which included failing to report to an immigration officer for examination on entry in Trinidad and Tobago. They were found guilty and each fined $1,000 per offence or three months imprisonment if in default. The three drivers – a Trinidadian, Nigerian and Venezuelan, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.
The 23 persons who were fined will be issued Orders of Supervision and not detention orders by the Immigration Division upon completion of their 14-day quarantine. So basically, once their fine is paid they will be free to stay in the country.
Griffith notes with concern that once again, although the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has enforced the law by conducting operations based on intelligence gathering and due diligence, as a result of the actions of the judiciary, it seems that the perpetrators are being allowed “a get out of jail free pass”.
He said “The court’s decision sends the message that there is virtually no deterrent and no consequences of entering the country illegally. Immigrants can come here illegally, hope that they don’t get caught, and if they do, beat the system by walking with $1,000 cash, and they will be allowed to stay in the country. This is another glaring indication of the gap between law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”
The CoP also notes that less than a year ago the country was COVID-free due to the restrictions and protocols that were put in place. This also made it easier for police to enforce the law and resulted in the gradual easing of restrictions over time that benefitted citizens. However, there is the likelihood that the reintroduction of the virus into the country is due to the number of illegal persons entering Trinidad and Tobago.
He said “If these numbers continue to increase, because it is perceived by people on the mainland that it is easy to enter the country and pay a thousand dollars we will be in serious trouble. It will be difficult to contain the virus unless further restrictions are put in place and a vast majority of our citizens will be affected. This will prolong the time that it will take to revert to some degree of normalcy in the future.”