Government’s visa stipulation for Venezuelans is causing concerns among some Venezuelans who are due to come here soon, as well as recent registrants who had planned to bring relatives over.
Their concerns are about the procedures to be and how efficiently the system will be implemented.
The stipulation was announced by Government last Friday at the end of the two-week amnesty registration process for Venezuelans. The visa news was widely reported in Venezuela yesterday although some of the translation was curious.
Venezuelan born T&T based activist Araceli D’ Olivierre, an interpreter, said: “It’s a way to control flow since for decades we’ve enjoyed coming and going without problems. In recent years we’ve had to have a letter of invitation and that spawned a business in the sale of such letters but right now many Venezuelans are calling me in a panic since they had bought tickets to come next week and they want to know what to do about the visa aspect.
“Mothers who registered here last week said they were going to bring their kids and don’t know what to do now. One said she doesn’t have money to bring the child legally with a visa and may try to do so illegally. I advised her not to even try since even though Trinidad and Tobago has challenges manning the borders, anyone caught will have the weight of the law on them,” she said
D’Olivierre was concerned about those who failed to get registered last Friday
“Many who had been here illegally a year-plus tried to get registered, only to find that hundreds who entered illegally in recent days came straight off the boats and slept outside centres to get in, blocking the others,” she said.
“I’m sure those who were unsuccessful are in hiding. One woman cried. She said she sold everything she had in Tucupita for US$700, paid US$300 to come here and now she’s stuck—no registration, nothing to return to. But I’m very grateful to Government for offering the amnesty.”
Venezuela born Monica Joseph said: “We respect the Government’s decision on the visa introduction but there are lots of questions. How will it be implemented? What are the requirements? We’re hearing talk it may cost US$100 which is a lot since but the average Venezuelan wage is US$5.
“Will there be an ambassador to supervise the process there? My family there say the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy is open infrequently. My grandmother is due to come in July for my sister’s wedding. Will she be able to apply?“
People are wondering what this means for Venezuelans and other non-nationals and if Cubans, for instance, get special concessions. If the system isn’t efficiently implemented, delinquency will occur and the same thing you’re trying to stop—illegal entry—will happen. There’s concern that Government’s tone has been inhospitable on this. It’s a lot of patchwork, questions aren’t answered, so we’re worried.
“Because of the way things have gone recently, it’s almost doomed to fail, though if done properly it will succeed. We don’t want any delinquency to happen for Trinidad and Tobago citizens to look down on us. We already know some people don’t want us here, so we hope it works,” Joseph said.
Opposition MP Suruj Rambachan who served as Foreign Affairs Minister in the People’s Partnership government said the visa stipulation is an indication that Government is trying to “catch up and prove they’re serious about deporting illegals, but this is after the fact that many are here and hundreds likely illegally.”
He added: “If they’re finding people in warehouses and such there may be more like this. When Government was supposed to close the borders it wasn’t done with efficiency so the visa’s an afterthought.”
Point Fortin mayor Abdon Mason is however confident the visa stipulation is a step in the right direction to deal with the migrant situation and ease local concerns about the Venezuelan influx.
“I’ve had full confidence Government would do the right thing. We’ve certainly seen an increase of Venezuelans who are all over now,” he said.
- by Gail Alexander-Waller