The idea of making amendments or changes to the T&T Constitution on its immigration laws, in the interest of strengthening the country’s chances of competing in world football, was quickly shot down by former Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews on Tuesday.
Gandhi-Andrews responded to concerns by national football coach Angus Eve at a recent training session, that the country’s immigration laws are archaic and have been a stumbling block in their attempts to recruit players who live in other countries but have T&T parentage.
English-born Ryan Inniss, a professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for EFL League One club Charlton Athletic, has been on the radar of national coaches Terry Fenwick and Eve as one of many players who potentially can represent the Soca Warriors. Both have been prevented from securing his services because the citizenship laws only allow for one generation to have dual nationality.
On Tuesday she said, “Our citizenship laws only allow for one generation to have dual nationality. The only country that I am familiar with for the grandparents to pass down nationality is the UK, but our constitution only allows for citizenship to be passed down one generation. So for example, a citizen of T&T has a child abroad, that child will be a dual citizen and he can’t pass citizenship down to his child.”
Gandhi-Andrews assured that Eve can explore the “Citizens Act” route where he can find a solution to his concerns, but she scuffed at the idea of constitutional change, saying: “I don’t think that warrants us changing the constitution for a handful of people really, and that’s my personal opinion because it is really just a handful of people. Plus I am firm in the view that we have really talented people here who can be tapped into, who were born right here in T&T. And while they may not have had the experience of being trained in a foreign country or not, I do believe we have the talent here.”
“Most countries have shied away from citizenship going down generations but we do have provisions under the citizenship act. In Section 5 of the citizenship act, you will see who can be registered as a citizen of T&T, in terms of a minor child, where the child has to take the oath of allegiance before they become an adult between 18-19. The only way an adult can be a citizen of T&T is if they were born to a citizen of T&T,” Gandhi-Andrews explained.
However, Eve, who admitted he did not want to engage in a war of words with anyone, highlighted authentic statistics which showed that more than half of the Moroccan team was born in another country; 38 per cent of players on Tunisia’s team were born in France; and Uruguay, Iran, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Japan, Mexico and the Netherlands have four percent of foreign-based players.
The statistics were also followed by a note by Eve that said: “This is what those with power to change the Constitution don’t understand.”
Eve and the Soca Warriors are preparing for two more matches to secure the win in Group C of the CONCACAF Nations League which will see them being elevated to Group ‘A’ and ensure qualification to the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year.
The Soca Warriors will first take on the Bahamas on March 24 away before returning home to the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago to face Nicaragua in their final match on March 27.