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T&T to repatriate 34 illegal Venezuelans

Friday, March 9, 2018
Minister of National Security Edmond Dillon and Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews tour the Immigration Detention Center in Aripo yesterday. PICTURE ANISTO ALVES

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon says his ministry is set to repatriate about 34 Venezuelan nationals.

Dillon made the comment during a tour of the refurbished Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Aripo. He said he met with the Venezuelan ambassador last week, where he was provided with the necessary travel documents for the detainees, who were all illegal immigrants. He said he will now be looking to “get them out quickly as possible” via a T&T Coast Guard vessel, once the Venezuelan authorities have prepared themselves to receive them.

Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews, who also toured the facility, admitted that because of the economic situation in Venezuela, they have found them coming here in increasing numbers daily. She said they are met with a challenge when these illegal Venezuelan nationals do not have their travel documents.

Ghandi-Andrews also admitted a major challenge they face is that detainees at the IDC, especially from Africa, refuse to identify themselves. Currently, there are 20 people at the facility whose nationalities cannot be verified.

“They will tell you they are from one country when really they are not, but then we will still have to take finger prints and send that to the particular country they say they are from for verification as to whether or not they are a national,” she said.

“We have had cases where they claim to be nationals of three different countries and we still have to go through the same process for each all this takes time and creates that challenge.”

She also admitted that when they seek to repatriate persons they look for routes where no visas are required, as detainees also refuse to sign the required visa forms.

“We also have the language barrier issue where sometimes we have to source translators from other countries,” Ghandi-Andrews said.

She also said repatriating detainees was expensing, noting an African national on a one way ticket can cost between $36,000 to $40,000.

Dillon said this was why they seek the assistance from the respective embassies and high commissions, but admitted in most cases they do not get the support.

There are currently 115 males and 29 females detained at the IDC, including nationals of Venezuela, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Estonia and Latvia.

The IDC, which can hold a maximum 150 people, had its first phase of refurbishment works completed at a cost of just under $2 million. Some of the works done included: roof repairs, improvement on bed spaces, plumbing and air circulation.


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