WASHINGTON—The registration period for Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago ends tomorrow, but thousands remain unregistered. Refugees International is gravely concerned about the possibility that arrests and deportations may follow and urges the government of Trinidad and Tobago to extend the registration period.
The government initially proposed a two-week registration period with five centers to process 28,000 Venezuelans even though more than 40,000 Venezuelans live on the island. But only three registration centers opened and thousands of Venezuelans are still waiting to register.
“Venezuelans on the islands are trying to follow the rules,” said Refugees International President Eric Schwartz. “But any registration process is time consuming and difficult for everyone. Venezuelans trying to meet the deadline should not be punished for that.”
It is clear the government must extend the registration period. At the very least, the government should allow Venezuelans who pre-registered online or who are already waiting in line at a registration center to complete their registration process even if it is after the June 14 deadline.
We are especially concerned that Minister of National Security Stuart Young has periodically said that the regular immigration laws would immediately go back into effect on June 15. These laws have unfairly limited the rights of individuals in need of protection. The government of Trinidad and Tobago should honor its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol to respect the rights of asylum seekers, including those Venezuelans already registered under a separate process managed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In May, the UNHCR said most Venezuelans fleeing their country deserve international refugee protection.
Young also stated that Trinidad and Tobago’s border patrol has “been turning away boatloads of people.” This is unacceptable and irresponsible, and a violation of the principal of non-refoulement. Refugees International also urges the government to allow access to Venezuelans detained in the Immigration Detention Center for overstaying or “illegal entry,” and that they be allowed to register and be released.
“We understand the challenges facing the government of Trinidad and Tobago, but the Venezuelans on the islands are fleeing a desperate situation back home,” Schwartz said. “Clearly, the number of Venezuelans now in line waiting to register is a reflection that they want to do the right thing. The government should do the same.”
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