The Trinidad and Tobago government Saturday said it had deported 160 Venezuelans who had illegally entered the island, even as a High Court judge stopped the immediate deportation of 19 others to the South American country.
In a statement on Saturday night, the Ministry of National Security advised of the deportation of 160 Venezuelan nationals, saying that the exercise was carried out in conjunction with the Venezuelan authorities.
It said that the deportation was carried out in compliance with the laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and in fulfilment of Government policy and that the government remains resolute in upholding the laws of the country in an effort to protect its citizens.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said it has come to his attention, via a media report, that certain lawyers approached a High Court Judge, ex parte, and that the Judge made certain orders pertaining to some Venezuelans who are in Trinidad and Tobago illegally.
According to the statement, the state was not represented at this hearing and the Minister has since spoken to Attorney General Faris Al Rawi for this particular matter to be appropriately addressed.
The Ministry of National Security said that while the Government acknowledges that there may be personal views surrounding the illegal entry into Trinidad and Tobago by persons, the Government, through the Ministry of National Security and other arms of the state, will continue to apply the laws and do all that it reasonably can to secure the borders and prevent illegal entry into the country.
Meanwhile, High Court judge, Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams, on Saturday stopped the immediate deportation of 19 Venezuelan, who media reports said were among a larger group put on a boat awaiting deportation to Caracas.
Attorneys Criston J Williams, Kerina Samdeo and Jerome Riley filed judicial review applications challenging their deportation and detention at the state quarantine facility in Chaguaramas.
The judge gave the group permission to file a claim for judicial review and also granted them permission to seek immediate relief, ordering the chief immigration officer to immediately grant the 19 orders of supervision as well as quashing any order of deportation pending their applications with the Living Water Community for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for asylum-seeker status.
Among the declarations the 19 Venezuelans will be able to seek is that the failure of the Minister of National Security to make a decision to quash their orders of deportation in keeping with the national policy for refugees and asylum-seekers affects them.
They also intend to ask for a declaration that the draft national policy to address refugees and asylum-seekers was illegal and irrational to the 1951 UN convention on the status of refugees and its 1967 protocols. The 19 will argue that the failure to make a decision to quash an order of deportation against them was ultra vires Article 33 of the Refugee Convention 1951 which prohibits the refoulment of refugees.
The group is also seeking a declaration that the failure by the chief immigration officer to hold a special inquiry hearing was illegal.
The issue of Venezuelans illegally entering the country was further highlighted here this week after a group from the South American country, including children, were first “escorted” out of the country by the Coast Guard, only to return less than 48 hours later as lawyers sought to bring their matter before the courts.
On Friday, Young told Parliament he would be meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart on the matter and that no date had yet been set for the meeting.
“The Venezuelan authorities have asked for the convening of a meeting wit the government of Trinidad and Tobago and I take the opportunity to repeat, as I have said on many occasions…months ago I held a meeting, I led a delegation on behalf of National Security with the equivalent Minister of Internal Security Affairs in Venezuela …and his team and we continue those discussions’.
“So this meeting is yet another one of those meetings. We have had many of those meetings. The last meeting was a virtual meeting because of COVID. This meeting will be a virtual meeting, we have now received a diplomatic note as is required from the Venezuelan authorities asking that I meet with the Venezuelan equivalent Minister of National Security and I will do so,” Young said.