Venezuelans are expressing gratitude to Minister of National Security Stuart Young for his proposed amnesty which will allow them to register legally and be able to work at least for one year.
They said the proposal to register legally will curb the continued exploitation of the Venezuelan people.
Manuel Guevara, who spoke to Guardian Media from his workplace in San Fernando said he has been living in fear since he arrived in Trinidad last March.
“I work at a tyre shop now and I do all kinds of odd jobs. I am a law-abiding man but when I see the police I get scared as if I am a criminal,” Guevera said.
With the new registration card, Guevera said he will feel more at peace.
“This is something I have prayed for. At least in Trinidad, we can get food. In Venezuela, we have nothing,” he said.
Another Venezuelan who works on an agricultural field said the registration of Venezuelans will prevent exploitation. He said some Venezuelans continue to be exploited.
“They take our documents and then make us work from morning to night,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine who has been working with refugees said the registration of all Venezuelans was a welcomed development.
Antoine, who holds the Chair as Prof of Labour Law and Offshore Financial Law said, “It is clear we are not talking about citizenship or voting rights. It is a way of us harnessing information not just to know who they are but also to provide support to them,” Antoine said.
Saying the registration process has to be managed carefully, Antoine said she also welcomed the idea to allow all Venezuelans the opportunity to live and work in Trinidad for one year.
“People need to be able to sustain themselves. They are in dire need. They are being exploited. They are facing sexual violence and abuse,” she added.
Having worked on a project with the Family Planning clinic, Antoine said, “We are offering our services to migrants and we are finding lots of cases of abuse. Persons are vulnerable. They have no means of sustenance. They are being exploited sexually and any proposal to have people independent and to work to get a decent days work is welcomed,” she added.
Antoine said, “At this time of need, Venezuelans need help and it is a good idea to offer them the opportunity to work without being harassed.”
She said hopefully the situation in Venezuela will become stabilised in a year.
“The vast majority of Venezuelans want to go back home and this amnesty will assist them greatly,” Antoine added.
Refugee policy needed- Charles
Meanwhile, Naparima MP Rodney Charles said Young’s plans were vague and ill-prepared.
“He did not present a well thought out policy but rather another ad hoc idea, without consultation or considerations of the possible implications. It is too late in the day to be presenting a possible option. What is needed is a decisive plan of action,” Charles said.
He said the United Nations estimate that the number of Venezuelans currently in T&T to be over 40,000.
“Without knowledge of the actual figures, how can a policy be developed to provide jobs for them? We have no accurate data of numbers, age groups, education or health needs of these refugees to begin to form the basis of any assistance needed. With the unemployment rate of T&T nationals increasing, how does this clueless, incompetent Government hope to provide jobs for 40,000 refugees for an entire year?” Charles asked.
He said the unemployment rate in Naparima stands around 25 per cent.
“Minister Young is in no position to tell us whether this policy will incentivise Venezuelans to seek refuge here and therefore overwhelm our health facilities, our schools and our housing situation. What would be the long term plan?” he asked.