Three months after the registration process ended thousands of Venezuelans are yet to receive their registration cards.
Speaking to Guardian Media, one Venezuelan national who requested anonymity said he has been working in a supermarket since June even though he does not have his registration card.
“We expected to get it by now. We are not criminals. I was a police officer in Venezuela but we still waiting,” Miguel said.
Another Venezuelan family who was featured on a BBC documentary which sparked the ire of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said they too were waiting.
“We were in the first batch of applicants but nobody has called us yet,” one of the applicants said.
In an interview with Guardian Media, one of the founders of the La Romaine Migrant Support (LAMS) group Angie Ramnarine said less than 25 per cent of the people who registered to work have received registration cards. She said LAMS has been assisting hundreds of migrants and out of the batch which they kept in contact with, only two people received their official registration cards.
She said the migrants were tasked with collecting the cards in Port-of-Spain and many of them were unclear where they had to go.
“It is difficult to get people from the Immigration to explain why the process is taking so long. In the meantime, the volunteers and support groups are working around the clock to lend assistance,” Ramnarine said.
She said Living Waters and the UNHCR have tried to provide educational opportunities to the Venezuelan migrant children by creating spaces in some primary schools.
“In one classroom we had 70 children to one teacher. The children don’t get meals and a lot of them have left LAMS to get spaces in schools but not all of them could be accommodated in the primary school system,” Ramnarine said.
Saying there were inadequate resources to assist the children, Ramnarine called on the government to put systems in place to help the migrants.
“The volunteers and NGO’s are trying to cope but there is a paucity of resources. The UNHCR and Living Waters have been trying to create Child-Friendly spaces but the government has not assisted. Where is the humanity in the politics?” Ramnarine asked.
Meanwhile, a representative of the T&T Venezuela Solidarity Network said based on preliminary data collected only 30 out of 1,000 plus Venezuelans associated with her network have received cards.
The official said the one-year stipulation takes effect from the date of issue, and they are concerned about why the process has been taking so long.
While support groups were working feverishly with Living Waters and the UNHRC, the spokesperson said many Venezuelan children were still without access to education and psychological support.
“There are very few people who have actually received the cards. From a group of 5,000 that the government said was distributed only 30 people said they received the cards. We have Whatsapp groups comprising of over 1,000 people and I am in constant contact with about 20 people. None of them has received a card,” the source said.
She said a team of Venezuelans and local psychologists have been working to assist the foreigners. However, she said the government needed to put a system in place to assist. She noted that many international agencies were ready and willing to assist, but the government has been refusing to help.
Efforts to contact National Security Minister Stuart Young proved futile as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered and he did not respond to Whatsapp messages.
Last week in Parliament, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said after verification by Venezuela’s law enforcement agencies, local authorities and Interpol, 5,148 people have been cleared to live and work in T&T.
He said out of this, 3091 registration cards have been processed and distributed. Imbert said a total of 16, 523 nationals were registered during the two-week registration window on May 31 to June 14.
Imbert said out of the applications received, 112 Venezuelans were rejected after it was found that they had criminal records for offences including robbery, larceny, drug trafficking and homicide.