Tuesday 19 June, 2018

Amnesty International writes Rowley on deportation of Venezuelans

Aircraft arrives to repatriate Venezuelan nationals at Piarco International Airport (Image: Ministry of National Security)

Aircraft arrives to repatriate Venezuelan nationals at Piarco International Airport (Image: Ministry of National Security)

The government is facing massive backlash both home and abroad after 82 Venezuelans were sent back to their homeland, in what authorities have described as a voluntary exercise.

Amnesty International has now joined the United Nations in condemning the move.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley on Monday, Amnesty International expressed its deepest concern regarding the deportation of the 82 Venezuelan nationals.

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The international human rights body has therefore requested information about the procedures followed by the government of in carrying out the massive deportation.

Amnesty International said that, contrary to a statement made by the Ministry of National Security on Monday, it has information that the exercise was not voluntary.

“Amnesty International has received information that suggests that those returned did not do so voluntarily, contrary to the Minister’s claims, but were presented with papers to sign, in a language they do not understand, stating that they would return voluntarily,” it claimed.

The international human rights body also noted claims by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the group, comprising of 53 men and 29 women, included several individuals who had been registered as asylum seekers with the agency in Trinidad and Tobago as well as others who had initiated asylum requests or had expressed an intention to do so because of fear of return to their homeland in Venezuela.

The UNHCR claimed that Trinidad and Tobago breached the international refugee law.

Do you agree with the Government's handling of the influx of Venezuelan nationals to T&T?

Yes
47%
No
43%
I don't know
10%

Amnesty International added that as part of the Convention relating to the Status of the Refugees (1951 Refugee Convention) and its Protocol (1967), Trinidad and Tobago is obliged to fully protect the rights of those in need of international protection.

However, it said that on the information received by their organisation it would appear that the government “chose to ignore each one of these key protection principles.”

 “If indeed those deported were forcibly returned without an individualised assessment or having the opportunity to challenge or appeal their deportation orders, without having their legal options explained to them in a language they understand and without access to their lawyers or UNHCR, the actions of your government have undermined due process, your government’s own policy on asylum, and your country’s international human rights obligations. This cannot be repeated,” Amnesty International said.

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The international body added that Trinidad and Tobago must guarantee the rights of the growing number of asylum seekers and refugees from Venezuela in need of international protection, whose hope for survival is increasingly in countries such Trinidad and Tobago.

Amnesty International said it will continue to monitor this type of situations to ensure the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers are respected everywhere.

On Monday, the National Security Ministry issued a statement in which it maintained that the 82 Venezuelan nationals were repatriated on a voluntary basis.