Amnesty International has written an open letter to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley stating that while it welcomes the Government’s plan to register Venezuelans in this country, it wants assurances that the confidential information received will not fall into the hands of the Venezuelan Government.
The letter dated May 28 was written by Amnesty International’s Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas.
Government scheduled to start its two-week process of registering Venezuelan migrants in this country today.
Earlier this month Amnesty International issued a report on Venezuela titled, Hunger for justice: Crimes against humanity in Venezuela which detailed “how selective extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, and deaths and injuries caused by the excessive use of force by the Venezuelan authorities or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the Venezuelan authorities, may constitute crimes against humanity and require an urgent response from the international community.”
The group stated: “Prime Minister, those fleeing Venezuela are overwhelmingly not ‘economic migrants’ from whom your government needs to ‘protect (the) interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago’ as you stated in a recent press conference, but people in need of international protection fleeing a situation in which their lives, security, and freedom are at risk,” the letter stated.
“In this context, Amnesty International welcomes Trinidad and Tobago’s decision to offer solutions that would help Venezuelans gain legal residency. Nevertheless, Amnesty International has a series of questions regarding the government’s proposed registration process, based on the limited publicly available information,” it stated.
One of the concerns raised by Amnesty International was the two-week duration of the registration.
The United Nations has provided statistics that there are between 40,000 and 60,000 Venezuelans in T&T.
Acting prime minister Colm Imbert questioned that figure at this week’s post Cabinet news conference saying there are only 9,080 overstays between 2016 to now and 12,257 asylum-seeker applications from Venezuelans at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the same period.
“According to reports, there are approximately 40,000 Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago, if not more. Based on government information, the proposed period for registration will only last for two weeks, and register approximately 28,000 people, between 31 May and 14 June 2019,” the letter stated.
“Amnesty International is concerned that the proposed period is likely to be too short to register such a large number of potential applicants and would like to receive further information about how your government proposes to process all the applicants in such a limited period of time, and how it plans to safeguard the confidentiality of those that register and ensure that it does not fall into the hands of the Venezuelan authorities.
“We would also like further information about what will happen to those migrants and refugees that are unable to register during this timeframe,” it stated.
Amnesty International said while it welcomes states that propose alternatives for Venezuelans to gain legal residency, the proposed registration process does not exempt T&T from its obligations under the Convention relating to the Status of the Refugees (1951 Refugee Convention) and its Protocol (1967), to respect the rights of those seeking asylum.
“Amnesty International would like further information about what options will be made available for asylum-seekers and recognized refugees following expiration of the one-year amnesty period. We remind your government that asylum-seekers and refugees are protected from forcible return to a country in which their life or freedom may be in danger on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. As such, deportation of those registered with UNHCR would be contrary to international law,” the letter stated.
Amnesty Internation wondered what would happen to those who choose not to register.
It called on the country to pass refugee legislation, consistent with international law and standards