Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling for a meeting of the Joint Select Committee on National Security to ascertain what led immigration officials to deport 27 Venezuelan migrants who had a matter before the High Court.
In a statement yesterday, Moonilal said the order to put the migrants, including 16 children, on a pirogue and send them back to Venezuela over the weekend was damaging to T&T.
"They have damaged our international image and reputation as a God-fearing, praying and caring country," Moonilal said.
Last Tuesday, police detained the migrants in Chatham and kept them in a cell at the Erin Police Station. Officers later transported the migrants to the Cedros Police Station. On that day, attorney Nafeesa Mohammed filed a writ of habeas corpus in the High Court on behalf of the migrants. Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams scheduled a hearing for Sunday at 2 pm but Mohammed got word that national security personnel were deporting the migrants that morning. On learning of this, the court rescheduled the hearing to noon. When the court called the matter, however, a State attorney informed all parties that the migrants were already in Venezuelan waters, leading Quinlan-Williams to dismiss the case.
Yesterday, Moonilal said the action of the Government was morally, legally and constitutionally indefensible.
"We demand an urgent meeting of the Joint Select Committee on National Security to inquire into the circumstances of the deportation of children in a pirogue and then those very children and babies, we understand, have been brought back to Trinidad and Tobago shores. This is bizarre and bewildering.
"The action of the Government to deport while a matter is before the High Court breathes of contempt. It is now incumbent that the children must be kept in a proper, sanitised environment. I am sure that every citizen of Trinidad & Tobago of every faith, creed and race would want these children to be cared for and loved in the same way that we treat our own children and our own fellow men."
He called on the Children’s Authority to ensure the migrant children were under proper care and asked that religious leaders and NGOs step in to ensure they receive the respect that they deserve.
As for the State, Moonilal said the incident shows a complete breakdown of coordination among the relevant branches of national security. He said even if the Government was using the law, it should not undermine the rule of law which dictates that once a migrant enters T&T and has a matter in the court, the law protects them.
"We must either honour the international agreements which we have signed on to as a nation or we withdraw from them. In any event, we cannot turn children away,” he said.
“Those children and their relatives are here out of desperation, not because they want to be here. If the law demands that they must be deported, then this must be done according to the law, not while their matter is before the court to be determined. The law must follow its course, but we must maintain our humanity."
Moonilal said Minister of National Security Stuart Young and the Government needed to remember that they should treat their neighbours as they treat themselves and as they would want to be treated in a foreign land.