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Refugee, asylum seekers law in works—Dillon

Published: 
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Government is currently drafting laws to treat with issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said yesterday.

Dillon gave the information in the Senate in reply to Opposition queries in light of the increased number of Venezuelans arriving in T&T.

Dillon said, “Government is committed to finalising this draft legislation concerning issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers within a reasonable time. However, in light of the need for stakeholder engagement and thorough analysis required to treat with this issue, it would be difficult to provide a fixed date of completion at this time.”

He said as a result of Venezuela’s sharp economic downturn and T&T’s close proximity to its northeastern coast, the Immigration Division had observed an increase in the number of Venezuelans entering T&T.

Three weeks ago, two asylum seekers from Venezuela threatened to sue the State over its failure to make transparent its official national policy for refugees. Their lawyer noted that a policy addressing the treatment of asylum seekers/refugees and how the State would determine their status was passed in 2014, but only a draft document on “phased establishment” was published.

Yesterday, Dillon said the proposed legislation being drafted is being informed by T&T’s National Policy to address refugee and asylum matters.

“This policy is currently being reviewed in order to improve the efficacy of the various Government and non-governmental organisations’ apparatus. In the absence of legislation, the Ministry developed interim standard operating procedures for treating with refugees and asylum seekers.”

Dillon said these procedures guide the Immigration Division’s actions and collaboration with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the Living Water Community (LWC).

“A refugee unit was established within the Immigration Division and is working closely with officials of the UNHCR to train Immigration officers and establish protocols governing all administrative processes.

He said the Living Water Community does pre-screening of asylum seekers, forwarding all relevant documents to the Immigration Division. If a person qualifies as an asylum seeker “based on a well-founded fear of persecution,” immigration places the person on an order of supervision in care of LWC, he said.

Subsequently, LWC will register the person with UNHCR, an asylum seeker’s certificate will be issued and immigration will “act accordingly pending the outcome of refugee status determination procedures,” he added.

The Labour Ministry is also currently drafting a labour migration policy on migrant labour, he said.

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