Nat Sec Ministry: No one was forced to return to Venezuela
The National Security Ministry is refuting allegations that some Venezuelans who were repatriated to their home country on Sunday were forced against their will.
In a statement on Monday, the Ministry said 82 Venezuelan nationals were asked numerous times if they were in fear of returning to their home country and they said no.
The Ministry said government has a right to repatriate any foreign national who is found to be in breach of the country's laws.
"Following revelations by the Chief Immigration Officer at a Joint Select Committee of Parliament on April 6th 2018, that 89 Venezuelan nationals were detained for various offences at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), officials from the Venezuelan Embassy visited the nationals detained at the IDC on Friday April 13th 2018 to ascertain their well-being and identify their needs for repatriation."
"Subsequently, at the request of the Venezuelan Ambassador, a meeting was held between the Ministry of National Security and the Venezuelan Embassy on Tuesday April 17th, 2018 to discuss the situation."
"The Venezuelan Ambassador stated that her fellow citizens expressed a desire to return to Venezuela and she had assured them that the Government of Venezuela would do everything possible to assist them in returning home. The Minister of National Security also gave the assurance that his Ministry would work with the Embassy to facilitate the repatriation."
"On Friday April 20th 2018, at the request of the Venezuelan Embassy, the Immigration Division facilitated all Venezuelan nationals in detention who agreed to go to their Embassy to obtain travel documents to return to Venezuela; 102 persons were transported to the Embassy."
"None of the nationals expressed fear or objection to be taken to the Embassy. The detainees were informed by the Venezuelan officials that a plane would be sent from Venezuela to take them home on Saturday April 21st 2018."
The Ministry said the 53 men and 29 women voluntarily left the Immigration Detention Centre, and once at the airport they were asked if they had any fear of returning to Venezuela.
"At the Airport, each person was asked if they had any fear or objection to returning to their homeland - all stated that they wanted to leave."
"Prior to boarding the aircraft, each individual was again asked by a different set of officials if they had any fear of returning to their homeland; each again responded in the negative and willingly boarded a bus with their belongings to be taken to the aircraft."
"No one was forced or coerced to leave the IDC, board the bus or the aircraft. The entire exercise was recorded by the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard," the Ministry said.
The Ministry added that government has been collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure the protection of persons fleeing persecution and will continue to support the work of the UNHCR while maintaining law and order and national security interests of Trinidad and Tobago.
"The Government of Trinidad and Tobago respects the rights of any person to seek asylum in Trinidad and Tobago and the decision of any foreign national to voluntarily return to their country of nationality," the Ministry said.
Ministry warns against asylum seeker application scams
The Ministry said the Immigration Division has also received reports that that foreign nationals have been entering the country and are being asked to pay money in order to claim asylum.
The Ministry said that these persons did not enter the country as refugees and are applying for an Asylum Seeker Certificate, so that they can live and work freely in Trinidad and Tobago even though they do not have the requisite documents.
The Ministry said these matters are being investigated.
"The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is concerned that many foreigners have entered the country illegally or have overstayed the landing permission granted to them by the Immigration Division and, as a result, may become susceptible to exploitation because of their irregular immigration status."
"These breaches of national security will not be tolerated by this Government and every effort will be taken to prevent exploitation of foreign nationals, while at the same time, we continue to protect this country’s borders," the Ministry said.
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