by RADHICA DE SILVA
Dozens of Venezuelan asylum seekers and refugees flocked to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church in San Fernando on Monday, hoping to get assistance ahead of the government's May 31 registration.
From as early as 7 am, the Venezuelans gathered at the church on Harris Promenade where they were interviewed by officials from the Living Waters Community.
A spokesman at the church said through the Living Waters Community, Venezuelans get assistance with housing, health, education, documentation, security and other social services. Living Waters Community is also the implementing agency for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR).
Venezuelan national Joseph Figuera, his wife Daniella and their daughter Victoria were among those who came for help.
Figuera said he came to Trinidad nine months ago and was interested in getting registered as an asylum seeker.
Asked how he was coping, Figuera said his mother was Trinidadian so he was faring better than most Venezuelans.
During the interview, a security guard at the compound called Figuera and told him he will not get any help if he spoke to the Guardian.
Earlier the same guard barred Guardian Media from entering the church compound saying it was private property.
She said she had instructions from senior officials not to allow the Guardian inside their premises.
Other Venezuelans who stopped to talk with the Guardian outside the church gates were advised not to comment if they wanted help.
However, when contacted, an official from the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said it works closely with the Living Waters Community to ensure that Venezuelans who fleeing the horrific conditions in their homeland are treated well.
A senior official at Living Waters Community said it conducts registration twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
UNHCR Registration staff conduct registration interviews, enroll persons in UNHCR’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS), and issues and renews UNHCR documentation.
Under the UNHCR, asylum seekers have the right to live in an environment free from discrimination, regardless of ethnicity, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, nationality, economic position, birthplace or any other personal attribute.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, any person whose life is in danger in their own country has the right to seek protection and asylum in another country.
The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago guarantees rights without discrimination on the basis of race, origin, colour, religion or sex.
On May 31, Venezuelans who do not have a criminal record will be registered in T&T.
Once they are cleared, they will be given the opportunity to live and work in T&T for a year.