Hinds: No trap in registration process

Thursday, May 30, 2019 - 06:00

A to­tal of 9,080 cit­i­zens of Venezuela, who en­tered T&T legal­ly, have over­stayed their time in this coun­try be­tween 2016 to now, act­ing prime Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert has said.

Ad­dress­ing the post-Cab­i­net press con­fer­enceon Wednes­day, Im­bert said he re­ceived those of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics from Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Char­maine Gand­hi-An­drews dur­ing a meet­ing on Tues­day.

Im­bert said he sought the da­ta to dis­pel the in­ac­cu­rate fig­ures be­ing bandied about with re­gard to the num­ber of Venezue­lan cit­i­zens here.

The Unit­ed Na­tions has es­ti­mat­ed that there were be­tween 40,000 to 60,000 Venezue­lans in T&T af­ter they fled their home­land which is fac­ing an eco­nom­ic and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

For the pe­ri­od 2016 to now, the Unit­ed Na­tions High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees (UN­HCR) has re­ceived 12,257 ap­pli­ca­tions from Venezue­lan cit­i­zens seek­ing asy­lum here, Im­bert said.

Some of the Venezue­lan over­stays are al­so asy­lum seek­ers, he said.

But even with these two sets of da­ta, Im­bert said, T&T will on­ly get a true re­flec­tion as to the num­ber of Venezue­lan cit­i­zens here when the reg­is­tra­tion process is con­clud­ed in two weeks time.

As such Im­bert and act­ing Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Fitzger­ald Hinds yes­ter­day urged all Venezue­lan cit­i­zens here to take ad­van­tage of the reg­is­tra­tion process sched­uled to start to­mor­row.

Reg­is­tra­tion takes place from 7 am to 5 pm un­til June 14. There will be no reg­is­tra­tion on June 5, the day Eid-ul-Fitr is cel­e­brat­ed.

“There is no need for fear, this can on­ly bring ben­e­fits. So we en­cour­age every one of them to come out. There is no need to fear. This is Trinidad and To­ba­go, we are giv­ing you an op­por­tu­ni­ty to be here law­ful­ly, we are giv­ing you an op­por­tu­ni­ty to work, we are giv­ing you an op­por­tu­ni­ty to main­tain your hu­man dig­ni­ty and there is noth­ing to fear,” Hinds said.

“This is most cer­tain­ly not a trick, or a trap, or any­thing sin­is­ter at all. It the op­po­site,” Im­bert said.

Hinds urged the Venezue­lan na­tion­als to al­so walk with their chil­dren to al­so be reg­is­tered.

At the end of the process, suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will re­ceive an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card.

The Em­ploy­ment Au­tho­ri­sa­tion Card cir­cu­lat­ed on so­cial me­dia, how­ev­er, is not the card that Venezue­lan cit­i­zens will re­ceive, Hinds said.

The card on so­cial me­dia is an ear­li­er mock-up ver­sion, and the fi­nal ver­sion is yet to be ap­proved by the Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty, he said.

The reg­is­tra­tion cards will al­so car­ry se­cu­ri­ty fea­tures and any­one caught un­law­ful­ly repli­cat­ing it will face crim­i­nal charges.

Not all Venezue­lan na­tion­als who reg­is­ter over the next two weeks are guar­an­teed a card as Hinds said it was up to the dis­cre­tion of the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment when they con­duct their in­ter­views.

Suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will not be giv­en their cards im­me­di­ate­ly as there is a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process which needs to be un­der­tak­en, Hinds said.

In­stead, ap­pli­cants will be giv­en re­ceipts that can be used un­til the cards are pre­sent­ed to them.

“You don’t have to be hid­ing from the au­thor­i­ties any­more. This moves you from il­le­gal­i­ty to le­gal­i­ty,” Hinds said.

Im­bert al­so chal­lenged Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nor Dr Alvin Hi­laire for stat­ing that the Venezue­lan hu­man­i­tar­i­an cri­sis can cost this coun­try an es­ti­mat­ed $620 mil­lion an­nu­al­ly.

Hi­laire said the bank’s cal­cu­la­tion was based on the 40,000 es­ti­mat­ed Venezue­lans in T&T.

“I have ab­solute­ly no idea how the Cen­tral Bank ar­rived at that num­ber. I don’t know how the fig­ure was cal­cu­lat­ed, I don’t know the ba­sis for the fig­ure and I find the fig­ure sur­pris­ing and we at the Min­istry of Fi­nance we do not agree,” Im­bert said.

Im­bert said be­cause Venezue­lans have been com­ing to this coun­try for years the eco­nom­ic im­pact would al­ready have been felt.

“If there was an eco­nom­ic im­pact then it al­ready would have been man­i­fest­ed with­in the na­tion­al bud­get and with­in the econ­o­my of Trinidad and To­ba­go,” Im­bert said.

“If one is log­i­cal about all of this the num­bers that would af­fect the bud­get for 2020 are very small, the per­sons who al­ready have been here and could pos­si­bly be af­fect­ing the bud­get, and we don’t agree with that, are the vast ma­jor­i­ty of Venezue­lans in Trinidad and To­ba­go so it is not ra­tio­nal to do a cal­cu­la­tion like that, as­sum­ing that 40,000 Venezue­lans will come here to­mor­row, it is not ra­tio­nal,” he said.

Im­bert said the T&T Gov­ern­ment has not ac­cept­ed any in­ter­na­tion­al aid to deal with the Venezue­lan mi­grants as those come with spe­cif­ic re­quire­ments.

Reporter: Mark Bassant