The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights and several other organisations have written an open letter to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley to express their deep concern about the reported deportation of 93 Venezuelans on September 18.
The Centre said that the deportees were sent back to the grave human rights and humanitarian emergency issues that they were fleeing.
It said the deportation of asylum seekers runs counter to the basic international law principle of non-refoulment.
“As your government may be aware, just two days before this most recent deportation, a UN-appointed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela found reasonable grounds to believe that authorities under the command of Nicolás Maduro have committed grave human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity.”
The UN report, which catalogues evidence of unlawful executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture in Venezuela since 2014, expands on the findings made by other human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, over recent years.
The UN experts found that “high-level authorities had knowledge of and contributed to the commission of these crimes” and that “commanders and superiors knew or should have known about them and did not take measures to prevent or repress them.”
“While we understand that Trinidad and Tobago, like all governments, is struggling to respond to the economic and public health implications of COVID-19, we are deeply concerned that just weeks ago the government also reportedly deported 165 Venezuelans.
The Centre said this is a violation of Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations under international law, and following statements by the Minister of National Security that people who helped migrants and refugees could face criminalization.
“As your government may be aware, most people who return or are deported to Venezuela are placed in quarantine centres, many of which are under the control of the police and the military.”
“These entities have been involved in a policy of repression since at least 2014, and as the UN has indicated in its findings, some of their leaders may be responsible for crimes against humanity.”
According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch’s findings, people quarantined in these centres often face unsanitary, overcrowded conditions without adequate food, water and medical care, which may amount to degrading treatment. The appalling conditions likely contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
“In many cases, due to an overly elaborate testing protocol and testing delays, Venezuelan authorities are requiring people to stay in quarantine centres for much longer than 14 days solely to await test results.”
“This is unnecessary from a public health standpoint and inconsistent with WHO guidelines, and it effectively results in arbitrary detentions.”
It admitted that Trinidad and Tobago’s registration process last year went some way to provide Venezuelans with international protection and was an important opportunity for many Venezuelans to start re-building a new life in safety and to contribute meaningfully in a country built on diversity.
The Centre calls on the Government to consider re-opening the registration process to ensure Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago have access to legal status so they can contribute the many skills they have.
The letter read, “Prime Minister, it remains the responsibility of leaders such as yourself to ensure that the rights of all people are protected, even during a public health emergency. Venezuelans are no exception.”
The letter was signed by 25 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Refugees International, and Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid (VIA).