Centre for Human Rights condemns repatriation of Venezuelans
The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights has joined the Opposition and the United Nations in its concern about the repatriation of 82 Venezuelan asylum seekers.
In a release, the Centre is concerned that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago would think it appropriate to carry out such an exercise without seeking the views of the relevant agencies tasked with the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, in particular, the United Nations.
"This is highly unsatisfactory in a country founded on democratic principles," the Centre said.
The Centre said Government's action raises grave human rights concerns and brings into question this country’s commitment to international conventions to which it is a signatory, specifically in this case the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
"Of particular concern is the disturbing disconnect between the assertion by the Ministry of National Security that all 82 individuals were voluntarily repatriated, and the fact that several of those individuals were seeking asylum in Trinidad and Tobago. Returning asylum seekers to the very State from which they have fled is a breach of the United Nations Refugee Convention. This principle, referred to as non-refoulement, is intended to ensure the safety of individuals whose fear of persecution has driven them from their homes to seek asylum within the borders of other countries."
"Statements made by the United Nations, the Living Waters Community and lawyers representing some of the asylum seekers strongly indicate that the repatriation exercise came as a surprise and without consultation from those entities that have been acting on the asylum seekers’ behalf. Furthermore, there has been no independent verification of the voluntary nature of the repatriation. At the same time, it has been confirmed that some of the repatriated individuals were in possession of the appropriate documentation to substantiate their status as asylum-seekers in this country," the Centre said.
The Centre said the foot-dragging by the government of Trinidad and Tobago on the implementation of the Draft Refugee Policy coupled with the discriminatory provisions within the Immigration Act continues to deny legitimate asylum seekers the rights and dignity they deserve as human beings.
"However, the act of repatriation of asylum-seekers in collaboration with the country of origin takes the human rights violation to an even more serious level and we should all be deeply concerned as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago."