April 11, 2019
The Honorable Dr. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
13-15 St. Clair Avenue
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Dear Prime Minister Rowley:
We were encouraged to learn that your government is preparing to extend important rights to Venezuelan refugees and migrants. As you know, the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate and Venezuelans who have sought refuge in your country are in urgent need of protection.
Refugees International is a non-governmental organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises around the world. We do not accept any government or UN funding, ensuring the independence and credibility of our work.
As you may know, a Refugees International team traveled to Trinidad and Tobago in November 2018 to assess the situation of Venezuelans on the islands. We met with UN officials, NGO workers, community leaders, and displaced Venezuelans. In late January, we issued a report that sets out our findings and recommendations.
Perhaps our most urgent recommendations were that Trinidad and Tobago adopt a special regularization process to allow Venezuelans to apply for residency and work permits, and to send their children to school. Access to employment and education will not only meet critically important needs of Venezuelans, but will also help Venezuelans to make significant contributions to Trinidad and Tobago. We therefore welcomed your January 30 comments indicating that your government is committed to registering Venezuelans and that you would explore the question of access to jobs and education.
I understand that, on April 4, your cabinet began consideration of a proposed policy to allow Venezuelans to register to remain in Trinidad and Tobago for up to a year. We applaud this proposal. However, we are concerned that the draft policy only provides Venezuelans with a two-week period to register for temporary status. First, we believe that two weeks is simply an inadequate period of time for registration of those already in the country. Second, an initial registration period does not account for those who might have good reason to flee to Trinidad and Tobago in the future. We would therefore respectfully encourage your government to extend that period to give Venezuelans now in Trinidad and Tobago a more reasonable period of time to register, grant them the right to work and the right to education, and include in your overall policy an ongoing commitment to address status issues with respect to those who arrive after any special registration period.
Under your leadership, Trinidad and Tobago is making important strides in responding to the Venezuelan displacement crisis. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss the situation of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Trinidad and Tobago and the new policies your government is considering.
Eric P. Schwartz
President, Refugees International