Police believe they have made a dent in a thriving human trafficking ring after arresting 11 illegal immigrants during a raid early yesterday.
It is believed a video circulating on social media, which showed people jumping off a pirogue and running onto shore at a beach in Erin, triggered a police operation around 2 am.
The operation took place at the Los Iros beach and was headed by Senior Supt Adams and included Supt Basdeo, according to a statement from the T&T Police Service. A party of officers led by Sgt Corrie, of the Erin Police Station, conducted a search of a hotel where seven male and four female foreign nationals were found. The men, ranging ages 31 to 55 years, included five Venezuelans, one Guyanese and one Syrian. The women, ages 18 to 49, were three Venezuelans and one Syrian. The foreign nationals were handed over to immigration officials. The group is believed to have entered this country illegally with the assistance of local fishermen. The 37-year-old female proprietress of the establishment was also taken into police custody.
Police believe those arrested are some of the same set of people seen in the video coming into the country at an unauthorised port of entry and without the relevant immigration checks. The video, which was circulated via social media earlier this week, is believed to have been shot at the Los Iros beach, along the island’s southern coast. In the video, individuals are seen with luggage and bags of items running hastily away once reaching the beach.
Los Iros beach is approximately 12 miles north of Venezuela.
In the video, a man and a woman who had seen what was taking place and who appeared to be astounded by the ease with which the illegal immigrants had entered this country, can be heard saying, “Watch, watch, watch. What de f... I seeing here boy. Drugs and thing coulda be coming in here. Watch how they moving. Look them. Allyuh reach. Run, run.”
National Security Minister Stuart Young, who commented on the issue via WhatsApp yesterday, said he had seen the video.
“I have seen the video and raised the content, as well as the implications, with the material arms of national security,” Young said.
He said he has also requested that more resources and attention be dedicated to border protection.
“The video is a disturbing example of what is taking place,” Young added.
He said he will also soon be taking a number of initiatives to Cabinet which are directed at tackling “this situation of our borders being too porous.”
“It is an area of concern which is being addressed. Following in from that video, authorities have detained a number of persons in that Los Iros area in Erin who appear to be illegal immigrants and they are currently detained and being processed,” the Minister added.
Contacted on the issue yesterday, councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh said the incident captured in the video was “nothing new.”
The exodus of Venezuelan citizens has been identified by the United Nations as the biggest crisis in the Western hemisphere.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith continues to appeal to members of the public to come forward with information to assist in the fight against crime.
Griffith, who also said he had seen the video, said, “Any matter that is presently a criminal matter that may be undergoing investigation, I cannot speak to the public on.
“If anyone has information...the same people who are in that video, if they can contact me and give me the name of the boat, the name of the person who brought in the persons so I can actually do a proper operation to have the relevant persons arrested.
“I need names, I need situations when it will happen. If people are aware of something that may take place prior the event, that is what I need. I continue to hear persons say they know who the criminals are and if you do, please bring it to our attention,” Griffith urged.
By the end of this year, the T&T Police Service is expected to the new Special Operations Response Team (SORT) unit. SORT will reportedly function along the same lines as the now defunct Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT).