Judge rejects last-ditch deportation plea by Venezuelan Mayor

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Judge rejects last-ditch deportation plea by Venezuelan Mayor

It was another failed attempt for a Venezuelan man seeking to avoid deportation from Trinidad and Tobago.

High Court Judge Frank Seepersad last night dismissed a last-ditch effort to stop the deportation of a former Venezuelan mayor seeking asylum in T&T.

Delivering an oral judgment after hearing lengthy legal submissions, Justice Seepersad rejected the injunction application sought by lawyers representing Delvis Jose Reyes Garcia. Justice Seepersad ruled that Garcia’s legal challenge was without merit.

Garcia, 36, was detained at Cocorite on September 22, after reportedly entering T&T illegally as he fled Venezuela, where he was allegedly threatened for lobbying with the opposition party. He made an asylum seeker application to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), which is still pending.

Garcia’s lawyers, who swore an affidavit on his behalf as he could not do so while detained at the Chaguaramas Heliport, claimed that he was an elected mayor of Guiria Estado Sucre in 2021. They claimed he was forced into hiding after the ruling party refused to acknowledge his victory at the polls. He said that since then his wife and three children have been hiding in Venezuela. Last week, Justice Seepersad dismissed a similar emergency application from Garcia.

In his decision, last night, Justice Seepersad noted that Garcia’s attorneys could not have re-argued the applicability of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which advocates against returning refugees to a country where they would probably face persecution (non-refoulement).

The country signed on to the convention in November 2000 but it was not incorporated into local law. In July, Justice Seepersad delivered a landmark judgment in which he ruled that the convention did not apply locally. During the hearing, Justice Seepersad noted that when Garcia was detained and interviewed by immigration officials, he did not claim that he was being politically persecuted but instead stated that he came to Trinidad for economic opportunities.

He also noted that Garcia presented no evidence to buttress his claims of being in fear for his life in Venezuela from when he was elected to when he first came to Trinidad in July. Garcia was represented by Keron Ramkhalwhan, while the State was represented by Nicol Yee Fung.