A boatload of Venezuelan migrants is feared dead after a vessel capsized on Thursday, plunging more than 25 people into the high seas. A news report from Delta Amacuro said the boat was bound for T&T.
Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh said migrants who live in a small village at Bilwah Trace, Cedros, were mourning the deaths of the missing Venezuelans.
Up to Friday, Venezuela's Guardia Nacional had recovered three bodies—a man, a woman and a child. Five people had been rescued by a commercial Venezuelan vessel that provided services in the Boca de Serpiente sector, in Delta waters.
Venezuela's Tane Tanae Asi Paso report said some people managed to swim a long distance and had survived the tragedy. They were later rescued by Venezuelan ships that came to provide support in search-and-rescue tasks.
Based on statements from survivors, the report said occupants had left Venezuela in search of a better life in T&T. They were expected to settle in La Horquetta, in the East, after meeting with Trinidadian contacts. It is uncertain where the illegal boat and migrants would have docked had they made it to Trinidad.
A Venezuelan national Jose Cardinez, who lives in San Juan, said the Venezuelans had risked everything in search of a better life.
While the T&T Coast Guard remained mum about the mishap, Facebook was abuzz with reports of the incident.
Jhoncarlos Vasquez Gonzalez wrote on his Facebook page, "Today once again Deltanos brothers are victims of the cruelty of a group that ignores the suffering of the Venezuelan people, only they are responsible for the serious situation in our country and that was precisely what forced to our nationals to flee this tragedy.
"Today we lose the lives of mothers, young people and children, who could perfectly stay in their country to realise their dreams and ideals but who unfortunately did not have that opportunity and saw in the neighbouring island of Trinidad a departure. I manifest my deep regret for the losses that mourn Deltanos families. For all my solidarity I send them a big hug, it is time to demand answers, until when will we continue to face tragic news."
Meanwhile, Maria Fernandez wrote, "Young children and mothers and fathers die in search of a better future and the only thing they find is death by God."
Vilma Esperanza Chacon Cordero wrote, "Mourning in my soul over this terrible news. GOD have mercy on those souls and strength to the families this moment."
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal on Saturday questioned why migrants were continuing to enter T&T.
Despite billions of dollars being spent on national security, Moonilal said the Ministry had failed to lock down the borders.
He said this was why COVID-19 statistics have continued to increase.
"Now we have the distressing news that the Brazilian variant was now present in the community," Moonilal said.
"Government has completely mismanaged border control. They began by thinking that border control means closing the airport but that is not border control. That involves locking down every single entry and exit both legal and illegal."
Moonilal said he hoped that the T&T Coast Guard would work closely with the Venezuelan authorities to save the missing migrants.
"We pray that they are alive and can be rescued safely. This incident speaks to a breakdown in the management of borders, lack of cooperation between T&T and the Venezuelan authorities to police and man the borders and ensure that illegal immigrants don't get the opportunity to leave Venezuela and so easily come to our shores."
There was a similar occurrence on December 7 last year, when a boat carrying 41 Venezuelans capsized off Guiria and its occupants drowned. The boat only had the capacity for eight people and had no life jacket or navigation equipment.
The overloaded boat—carrying just over five times the amount it should have carried—was cited as the main cause of the shipwreck. This incident occurred after the vessel left Venezuela on December 6.
There were allegations that the boat was detained in Trinidad and returned to Venezuela. However, the T&T Coast Guard said that it had not intercepted any boats from Guiria.
Following a probe, the Venezuelan Government stated that the boat had been heading to T&T, but never got close. Venezuelan authorities which launched investigations stated it was involved in a human trafficking/smuggling ring. Each of the 41 people had paid (US)$150 for the trip. The vessel's owner and the owner of the farm from where passengers left were both arrested. Ten others were also sought.
Guardian Media reached out to National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Public Affairs Officer of the T&T Coast Guard Lieutenant Khadija Lamy but calls, emails and WhatsApp messages went unanswered.
91 illegal ports
In an exclusive Guardian Media report last year, 91 illegal ports were identified around T&T. This was mapped out by the T&T Coast Guard.
An eight-month human trafficking investigation in the Caribbean by Dr Justine Pierre unearthed an expansive human trafficking and smuggling ring involving senior law enforcement officers in T&T who assist which entry.
Venezuelans pay as little as US$500 and as much as US$2,000 to get to Trinidad.
In the Southwestern peninsula, migrants enter via illegal ports at Icacos, Columbus Bay, Fullarton Beach, Galfar Beach, Chatham Beach, Granville Beach, St Anns Beach, Point Coco Beach and Iros Forest Beach.
Near the Galfar volcanoes, the migrants' hideout in the forests before they are picked up.
There are also illegal ports at Erin Beach, Palo Seco, Los Iros, Mon Diablo beach, Fanny Village Beach, Kings Wharf Oropouche Bay, Jumbie Bay. Migrants also continue to come through the Gordineau River and have set up little settlements on the river bank.