Naparima MP, Rodney Charles, is calling on the new Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dr. Amery Browne, to urgently address the country’s ever-worsening refugee crisis, and more so, to jolt the Minister of National Security out of his slumber to protect the porous borders.
Charles said that since the PNM’s last term in office, “Venezuelans have been crossing our borders illegally, and many times unopposed, at an alarming rate.”
“This problem has now been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic since, in addition to the demands on our public institutions, they now pose a national health risk.”
“Covid has put increased strain on our public health services, social services and economy. A reality acknowledged by Dr Rowley.”
He said this pressure on TT’s resources will only worsen if this remains unchecked.
With the current ongoing crisis in Venezuela, TT has become a destination for refugee migrants.
Charles said, “Whilst we want to be humane, that does not change the fact that the Government has a responsibility to put our own citizens first and ensure that our borders are properly protected and our Coast Guard presence is heightened especially during these times of a global pandemic.”
He said reports in the Saturday Guardian indicate that there have been increased concerns that Venezuelans are entering our shores through the Chaguaramas bay by the dozens, metres away from our Coast Guard headquarters, yet no Coast Guard patrols in sight.
On the other hand, fully manned, armed Coast Guard patrols are ongoing along beaches to ensure that no one is swimming.
With over 50,000 positive reported Covid cases in Venezuela, it is safe to suspect that their illegal entry poses a threat to the measures implemented to control the spread of the virus in TT.
“Furthermore, anecdotal evidence indicates that Venezuelan women are progressively becoming victims of violent crime and sexual exploitation in TT.”
“What protocols have the Government put in place to address the increasing incidents?” he asked.
Charles said the UNC has always called for a well thought out refugee policy that is humane, cognizant of our international commitments on refugees, mindful of our absorptive capacity, which is developed consensually and which incorporates global best practices.
“We are calling on our newly appointed Minister to protect our interests and not adopt the ostrich-like approach of his predecessor.”