Illegal immigration should be investigated in tandem with human trafficking and smuggling in T&T says human rights attorney Jason Nathu.
His comments follow the circulation of a video showing illegal immigrants landing in Erin and revelations by Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh that an average of 1,500 migrants arrive in the southwest peninsula weekly.
Speaking at CNC3’s Morning Brew, Nathu, a tutor attached to the Legal Aid Clinic at the Hugh Wooding Law School, said T&T had an obligation to protect illegal immigrants.
“While those persons don’t immediately fall into the definition of a refugee there is a guidance note issued by the United National Refugee Agency UN HCR regarding the outflow of Venezuelans and how it applies to all countries neighbouring Venezuela. It is based on the 1951 Convention on the status of refugees which guarantees certain rights to persons who are in need of protection, so we should offer assistance to such persons,” Nathu said.
He added that there was a need to have sensitivity training for law enforcement officers as many illegal immigrants were forced into prostitution.
“Many of them end up in the sex trade. When I look at immigrant reports I have seen nationalities in Guyana, Venezuela, Syria. There is an element of smuggling and trafficking going on. We are hearing about illegal immigrants but we are not hearing about human trafficking. We don’t know to what extent we have human trafficking. We need sensitivity training for our judicial officers and the police,” Nathu said.
He also added that immigrant detention was draconian and inhumane. Saying there were alternatives to detention, Nathu added, “Detention is deprivation to someone’s rights to liberty. According to Section 17 of the Immigration Act, a person may be released on the order of supervision.
Nathu also said the language barrier has been posing a problem in the safeguarding of rights for illegal immigrants.
“Interpreters are always a problem. Even when the immigrants come to court there is a problem with accessing interpreters. We have lots of young people graduating with languages who can be hired to assist,” Nathu added.
He noted that according to the Immigration Act, a special inquiry has been convened to see if an immigrant is illegal and if they did, an order of deportation is prepared before they are sent back to their homeland. He said those who are facing political persecution are afforded additional protection.
Nathu said it was important to treat the immigrants fairly.