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Venezuelans claim Immigration officers in racket

-Bribes to stay in T&T
March 28th, 2019 | Tags:
National Security Minister Stuart Young presents the Best Shot Recruit to PC Edwards during the TTPS Passing Out Parade ceremony 2019 at the Police Academy in St James yesterday, March 27, 2019. Photo: Trinidad Guardian
Trinidad Guardian

PORT-OF-SPAIN, T&T - Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young is chal­leng­ing ac­tivist Yese­nia Gon­za­les and oth­er Venezue­lan na­tion­als to bring ev­i­dence they have against Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers they al­lege are tak­ing bribes from Venezue­lan na­tion­als seek­ing to gain en­try in­to T&T and to stay here af­ter their time has elapsed.

Young made the call yes­ter­day, March 27, 2019, hours af­ter Gon­za­les made the claim on CNC3’s The Morn­ing Brew and some of her com­pa­tri­ots backed up the al­le­ga­tion.

“A par­tic­u­lar per­son of Venezue­lan her­itage…let’s call her that…was mak­ing a whole host of al­le­ga­tions…I am call­ing on Ms Gon­za­les, if she has ev­i­dence of any of those ac­tiv­i­ties, to come for­ward to the TTPS and give the in­for­ma­tion to them,” Young said af­ter at­tend­ing a pass­ing out pa­rade for po­lice of­fi­cers at the St James Train­ing Acad­e­my.

Criminal Activity

He added that the po­lice would bear the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of in­ves­ti­gat­ing if there are any al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ty.

Young al­so clar­i­fied one of the things he said in the Sen­ate on Tues­day, say­ing while he knows al­le­ga­tions of in­tim­i­da­tion of Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers are be­ing made against Venezue­lan na­tion­als, there were al­so T&T na­tion­als who were do­ing so as well.

“We are work­ing with the TTPS to hold these per­sons,” Young said.

The is­sue arose af­ter Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers claimed they were in­tim­i­dat­ed by rel­a­tives of a group of Venezue­lan na­tion­als who were re­fused en­try in­to the coun­try af­ter ar­riv­ing on a flight from Venezuela last week. Young ad­dressed the mat­ter in the Sen­ate on Tues­day and said po­lice would now set up sting op­er­a­tions at the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port and oth­er ports of en­try to ar­rest any in­di­vid­u­als who may en­gage in this ac­tiv­i­ty.

Yes­ter­day, how­ev­er, Venezue­lan na­tion­als liv­ing in T&T, Gon­za­les among them, scoffed at the claims.

“That is (a) big joke. Every­body laugh­ing at the state­ment that the Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty (made) and he has to be very care­ful about,” Gon­za­les said.

Payments

Gon­za­les said con­trary to what Young was say­ing, she felt it was the oth­er way around as many Venezue­lans felt they were be­ing vic­timised and ex­ploit­ed by the Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers, with many who were al­ready here forced to make pay­ments to stay in the coun­try.

“It is the Im­mi­gra­tion (of­fi­cer) who has a lot of the pow­er. They are the ones who are de­port­ing them and per­se­cut­ing them and ask­ing them for mon­ey from peo­ple who don’t even have mon­ey and they say they are il­le­gal. A lot of com­pli­cat­ed things, a lot of neg­a­tive things go­ing on with the Venezue­lans here, who look­ing for­ward for a safe place or some­thing like that and the im­mi­gra­tion just tak­ing ad­van­tage of that,” Gon­za­lez said.

Gon­za­lez said she be­lieved it was more like­ly that per­sons who were in­volved in bring­ing Venezue­lans and oth­er na­tion­als in­to the coun­try il­le­gal­ly were the ones threat­en­ing Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers.

“The per­sons who bring peo­ple here and do­ing all sorts of thing to Venezue­lans, they are prob­a­bly the ones do­ing that to Im­mi­gra­tion, not the Venezue­lans. The Venezue­lans don’t have any­body here, they don’t speak the lan­guage,” said Gon­za­lez.

“The Im­mi­gra­tion seem to have more pow­er than the Prime Min­is­ter and the Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty.”

Asylum

Venezue­lan refugee and hu­man rights lawyer Kar­la Hen­riquez al­so said there were nu­mer­ous in­stances of Venezue­lans and oth­er refugees be­ing asked to pay im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers se­cu­ri­ty bonds for their con­tin­ued stay in this coun­try. In­ter­est­ing­ly, the cost of the se­cu­ri­ty bond would vary based on the na­tion­al­i­ty of the asy­lum seek­er, she said.

“When your time is up, you get a bond to ap­ply to stay and then the Im­mi­gra­tion tell you you’re gonna get back the mon­ey when you leave,” said Hen­riquez via a trans­la­tor.

“Colom­bians, Cubans and oth­er na­tion­al­i­ties pay a dif­fer­ent amount.”

She said the price was al­so in­creased based on if the asy­lum seek­ers came in us­ing le­gal pa­pers or not.

“If you have le­gal pa­pers and you ask for the bond it’s $2,100, but if you came via an il­le­gal act it’s more mon­ey that you have to pay,” Hen­riquez said.

Guardian Me­dia re­ceived pho­tographs of the bonds, stamped by Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials, in­di­cat­ing the var­i­ous forms of pay­ment. How­ev­er, Hen­riquez said these pay­ments should not be le­gal based on treaties Trinidad and To­ba­go had signed with the Unit­ed Na­tions.

In Jan­u­ary, sev­er­al refugees protest­ing out­side the Par­lia­ment al­so claimed Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers were ask­ing them for mon­ey in or­der for them to see their fam­i­lies at the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre. When Guardian Me­dia asked about that prac­tice then, Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cials de­nied there was any such prac­tice.

 

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