People trying to enter Trinidad and Tobago with bogus credentials and trickery will be denied entry and sent back to their home countries, says National Security Minister Gary Griffith.Griffith made the comment yesterday as he warned foreigners that if they did not meet this country's strict entry requirements they would not be allowed in.
The minister, in a telephone interview, said there were some 30,000 illegal immigrants, including those from Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and other Caribbean countries and various parts of Africa, living and working in T&T, who were not paying taxes and denying locals of job opportunities.Immigration sources said yesterday that they also intend to locate illegal immigrants in T&T and deport them to their respective countries.
Asked to elaborate on his plans to tackle illegal immigrants, Griffith said he preferred not to comment, as there were sensitive talks now taking place between T&T and Jamaica regarding the recent deportation of 13 Jamaicans at Piarco International Airport.The deportation has led to angry reaction from Jamaica's business groups and citizens, who have launched social media campaigns calling for a boycott of goods from this country and next year's Carnival festivities in T&T.
To placate the situation, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran has been invited by his Jamaican counterpart, Arnold J Nicholson, to talks aimed at resolving the dispute.Yesterday, Griffith said T&T was not being "obnoxious" in blocking those who failed to produce valid documents at the ports of entry."We cannot continue to have a situation where people are coming into the country and robbing the State of millions by not paying taxes," he said.
"What is even worse is that T&T citizens who are in dire need of a job cannot get one because these people are robbing them the opportunity to do so."He maintained there were many flocking to T&T from other Caribbean countries using the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) policy as a means of doing so, but said this must be halted since many of them arrived here although they did not meet the requirements. "This is clearly a worrying and frightening situation for T&T," Griffith said.
"The immigration officers will continue to do their duty and those who do not meet the necessary requirements will be sent back...It's as clear as that." "Those coming under CSME should already have knowledge about the programme before entering a country. The onus is on them to be aware of the guidelines, so when they reach immigration all their documents would be in order."
He said he was taking the stance, not only to protect the rights of citizens, but also the welfare of foreigners. "If someone slipped through immigration and ends up in Trinidad and they have no job to rely on, then they could end up on the streets and this could also lead to a life of crime," Griffith said. "This is definitely what we do not want in Trinidad. The problem is multifaceted and we have to deal with it as soon as possible."
The issue continues to gain regional and international attention and was yesterday raised in the editorial of Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper, which said the two main issues to be looked at were trade and the free movement of people within the region. "On the matter of trade, the quarrel is primarily with Trinidad and Tobago, the community's strongest and major manufacturer. More than 90 per cent of our near US$1 billion trade deficit with Caricom is with Trinidad and Tobago," the Gleaner said.
"Jamaica's manufacturers have primary complaints against the Trinidadians: that Port-of-Spain uses its domestically available cheap energy to subsidise its enterprises, that it cheats on Caricom rules-oforigin requirements, and that it uses non-tariff barriers to deny access to its markets by Jamaicans."