PM: T&T is not Venezuela's solution; volume will become a burden

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says that Trinidad and Tobago cannot be the solution for millions of Venezuelans who are fleeing the country and that there will come a time when the volume of Venezuelans coming here will become a burden.

He made the remark at today's post-Cabinet media conference.

The prime minister said the first priority of the government is the welfare of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

He told the media conference that while Trinidad and Tobago is attempting to keep its doors open, it will not be able to cope with a large migration of Venezuelans.

"International agencies, many of them with different agendas to our interest in Trinidad and Tobago, will not encourage us into converting Trinidad and Tobago, this little island nation in the mouth of the Orinoco, into any refugee camp for the larger Venezuelan public," he said.

Dr Rowley added: "To protect the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago we will have to limit our exposure to the fallout in Venezuela."

He said one way of doing so is to continue the 90-day limit allowed for Venezuelans coming into the country.

However, he is warning that Trinidad and Tobago might have to ensure that the migration of Venezuelans to this country, stops.

"There comes a time when the volume and the presence of these economic migrants in Trinidad and Tobago will threaten the quality of life of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and it falls to us to protect ourselves from that," he said.

He said the government is not naive to the fact that criminal elements are also attempting to exploit the generosity of this country in allowing Venezuelans in.

Dr Rowley said he will chair a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday to address major concerns related to that.

He said the registration process which begins on May 31, will help the authorities to know how many are here, where they are and who they are.

 "If you engage in criminal conduct of any kind, we will deport you because you are our guests," he said.

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Stuart Young says that the government did not play a role in the decision to grant supervision orders to Venezuelan nationals found in Palo Seco on Wednesday.

Close to 100 Venezuelans were found in a house in a forested area and were taken to Siparia for processing.

Immigration officers allowed the Venezuelans to go free on supervision orders, until the end of July.

Minister Young said that he could not say on what grounds the Immigration officials acted.

"I can't say what was the decision taken by the Immigration officers," Young said, adding, "I can tell you that the government did not participate in that decision."

Minister Young said the might have had to do with the space available for holding Venezuelan migrants.

"You have to understand there are limited facilities for holding persons and that is something we are going to be working on, and I think they just took a decision on the ground there that if they release them on supervision orders - and I was told that people are holding to the terms of the supervision orders, so they are actually turning up when they are supposed and reporting in etc - that was a decision taken by the Immigration officer who was in charge yesterday," he said.

He said he did not have information on where they were today.

- by Sampson Nanton


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