Unused prisons may soon be used to house detained illegal immigrants. This is among options being considered by national security agencies responsible for border security who are discussing way to deal with people detained as illegal immigrants.
This was confirmed yesterday by National Security Minister Stuart Young when he was asked about concerns raised by the Opposition and former diplomat Reginald Dumas about border security. This followed chief immigration officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews’ disclosure to a Parliamentary Committee last Friday that her division has halted exercises to detain illegal immigrants because of the lack of capacity at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).
Young assured in a subsequent statement that border security “is a priority and is being dealt with at a multi-agency level.”
He said: “The various bodies charged with the responsibility for border security have been discussing various inter-agency solutions for dealing with the numbers of people being detained as illegal immigrants, including using and declaring for use, certain prison facilities not being used.”
The minister didn’t specify which facilities were being considered. However, he corrected suggestions that T&T’s borders are being left unmanned and that there is] a “free for all” with illegal immigrants entering the country, or that immigration officers are ignoring border security duty.
“In the past few months, there has been an increase in border security operations and this has led to reduction in the porous nature of our borders,” Young said.
He accused Opposition MP Suruj Rambachan of attempting to create panic.
Young said Coast Guard, police and Immigration officials “will continue to protect our borders and deal with difficulties associated with illegal immigrants.”
He added: “The ministry is currently working on a policy to deal with Venezuelan citizens who are in T&T, some of whom are here illegally, by requiring them to register with the authorities, in the first instance.
“The policy will also provide for Venezuelans to work legally for a period of time. This process is expected to be approved and commenced shortly. The reality is, T&T has seen an increase in the number of Venezuelans coming here and Government is dealing with the situation. There’s no crisis. Unfortunately, the Opposition continues to wish crisis upon T&T,” Young said.
Dumas called for the Government to say if halting exercises to detain illegals is a policy shift and its implications for T&T’s security and services.
“Also, if a potential clash shaping up between Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido this Saturday happens and more Venezuelans seek to leave, where will this situation by Immigration, leave T&T?” he asked.
“We have the highest number of refugees concerning Venezuelans, but many Venezuelans arriving aren’t refugees but economic migrants. Who will support them here?”
UNC’s Rambachan had said: “Government is sending a dangerous message by declaring Immigration can’t further handle illegals entering. This will put pressure on the service and has potential for chaos. Also, a clash of Venezuela’s opposing forces could have civil war proportions and people may look to the closest place, Trinidad and Tobago.
“Gandhi-Andrews’ admissions point to a crisis regarding border control and speaks loudly about our ability to patrol T&T’s coastline. It conveys the feeling that authorities have given up and T&T is (in) free for all concerning illegal entry and overstays.”