Trinidad and Tobago Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith is complaining that the courts have been giving a “get out of jail free card” to Venezuelans who come to the country illegally.
He also warned that because the penalties are not tough enough to deter an influx of illegal immigrants, Trinidad and Tobago could see an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Griffith lamented the current state of affairs on Sunday as he referred to an incident last week, in which 23 Venezuelans who were held on a beach at Los Iros pleaded guilty to two offenses, including failing to report to an immigration officer for examination on entry in Trinidad and Tobago, and were fined TT$,1000 (US$ 147.12) per offense or three months’ imprisonment in default.
“The court’s decision sends the message that there is virtually no deterrent and no consequences of entering the country illegally,” he said in a statement posted to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Facebook page on Sunday.
The top cop noted that the Venezuelans will be issued Orders of Supervision and not detention orders by the Immigration Division upon completion of their 14-day quarantine, which means once their fines are paid they will be free to stay in the country.
He expressed concern that “once again, although the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has enforced the law by conducting operations based on intelligence gathering and due diligence, as a result of the actions of the judiciary, it seems that the perpetrators are being allowed a ‘get out of jail free pass’.”
“Immigrants can come here illegally, hope that they don’t get caught, and if they do, beat the system by walking with $1,000 cash, and they will be allowed to stay in the country. This is another glaring indication of the gap between law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” Griffith said.
The Police Commissioner added that the country was COVID-19-free less than a year ago, due to the restrictions and protocols that were put in place which made it easier for police to enforce the law and resulted in the gradual easing of restrictions over time that benefitted citizens. However, he said, there is the likelihood that the reintroduction of the virus into the country is due to the number of illegal persons entering Trinidad and Tobago.
“If these numbers continue to increase because it is perceived by people on the mainland that it is easy to enter the country and pay a thousand dollars, we will be in serious trouble,” Griffith warned.
“It will be difficult to contain the virus unless further restrictions are put in place and a vast majority of our citizens will be affected. This will prolong the time that it will take to revert to some degree of normalcy in the future.”
Up to Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago had recorded 7,977 COVID-19 cases since March 2020. Of those, 240 are active. So far there have been 142 deaths.