Attorney disputes AG on lack of refugee laws
Photo: A screenshot of a video shared by the Miami Herald showing Venezuelan migrants imprisoned in the Immigration Detention Centre in Trinidad.
Attorney Emir Crowne disputed statements made by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi who said in recent media reports there are no refugee laws in Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking to LoopTT, Crowne said contrary to Al-Rawi’s comments, Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention which advocates for the protection of refugees.
“Trinidad and Tobago is in fact a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the status of refugees. That is well established.”
“Trinidad and Tobago signed on to the Convention relating to the status of refugees in 2000 and that Convention has certain international obligations that Trinidad and Tobago must uphold.”
Crowne said although some citizens seem to be against the idea of protecting refugees, government must uphold the Convention’s terms.
“It may not be politically convenient as it seems that some people seem to take a dim view of refugees, but Trinidad and Tobago cannot shirk from its responsibilities under that Convention.”
“Trinidad and Tobago signed that convention, acceded to it and is a party to it, so we cannot say that there are no refugee laws in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Crowne said Al-Rawi seems to be ‘playing politics’ with the lives of undocumented migrants, who are increasingly vulnerable to abuse as highlighted in a recent article by the Miami Herald.
“It seems to me that the Attorney General, with all due respect, is playing a little politics with people’s lives and well-being.”
“Trinidad and Tobago cannot sign on to international conventions without respecting the rights under this Convention, and one of these relates to the rights of refugees,” he said.
Crowne said Trinidad and Tobago’s laws include the right to determine whether or not someone is a refugee.
Additionally, as per the 1951 Refugee Convention, the country has an obligation not to send refugees back to countries where they may be persecuted (non-refoulement).
Cuban refugees may be deported
Crowne also expressed concern over recent charges filed against 75 Cuban migrants and refugees who were encamped outside of the United Nations Trinidad and Tobago office pleading for more humane conditions.
Crowne said the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who plead guilty to the charges, could, under the Immigration Act, be deported.
Under Section 9 (4) of the Immigration Act, a person who committed an offence and was sentenced to more than one year in jail, or who was an inmate of a prison, might be deported.
However, under Section 28 of the Act, deportation might be stayed if there are reasonable grounds that the person’s life would be in danger.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses said earlier this week that an inter-ministerial team was set up to discuss legislation to treat with the increasing number of undocumented migrants arriving from Venezuela.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said he would be engaging the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on how to treat with asylum seekers.
According to a March 2017 report from the UNHCR, Government adopted a Refugee Policy in 2014, and legislation on refugee protection was supposed to be in the 'advanced drafting stage’.
“While there are no current avenues for refugees to legally integrate into the country, the new refugee legislation is at an advanced drafting stage. As of April 2017, the Government will participate in the Quality Assurance Initiative project, which will contribute to the progressive transfer of responsibilities from UNHCR to the Government,” the report said.
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