Venezuelan nationals who are refugees in T&T staged a silent demonstration yesterday in Aranguez over what they described as “ignorance of the international protection status” in T&T.
According to one refugee, who did not want to be named, there is a serious violation of rights to the refugee community by the relevant authorities in T&T.
“Let us remember that Trinidad and Tobago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Protocol of Refugees of 1951 which was adhered to and its Constitution was created in 1976 after the Immigration Act in the same year 1976. The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago establishes respect for human rights,” the refugee said.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its article 14 frames the right to asylum and the enjoyment of it but here in Trinidad and Tobago we are not respecting the refugee status as only victims of house raids, of arbitrary arrests.”
The refugee said that some of them despite holding certificates of refugee status are arrested almost on a daily basis by police officers and handed over to Immigration officers.
“Every day we are insulted and threatened and they leave us for a long time detained violating due process and the right to justice. They deprive us of freedom and use their power to humiliate, persecute and insult us…we are human beings with the same basic human rights,” the refugee said.
On November 23, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said T&T was not ready to establish laws here regarding people seeking asylum and refugee status as it cannot afford to, especially with regards to housing and education.
He was responding to statements by Amnesty International and attorney Dr Emir Crowne who both pointed out that the country has laws for refugees as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
He said T&T was a “dualistic” country and for international law to be established it must be enacted by an act of Parliament, similar with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and Global Forum.
“We have no legislation in T&T. We have not ratified, we have acceded, not ratified. We have protocols that are exercised in conjunction with the UN agency and Living Waters and we treat with this in the way we are supposed too,” Al-Rawi said.
T&T is party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, which the country acceded to in November 2000.
In 2014, Trinidad and Tobago’s cabinet adopted a national policy to address asylum and refugee matters. The policy states that recognised refugees should be entitled to a series of rights including travel documents, identity papers, authorisation to work, and the right to education. In practice, those who apply for asylum or are granted refugee status are not allowed to work, leaving many destitute, and they are not permitted to send their children to school. The Cubans arrested had been protesting this situation.
International law establishes that states must not return people to countries where their life or freedom would be threatened, or where they could be subject to torture or other human rights violations.