Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has described a small anti-Venezuelan protest outside one of the registration centers in the capital on Thursday night as “a lot more emotion” as the Trinidad and Tobago government maintained it would not extend Friday’s deadline for registering all Venezuelans who have been fleeing the South American country.
Griffith told reporters that the protestors, mainly Trinidad and Tobago nationals, who were calling for the closure of the borders, had not applied for the necessary permits to stage their action.
“It is not a protest where it is a plan for violence. It is a lot more emotion. Many people make decisions when they are angry. I have spoken to them,’ he said, noting that holding a protest at nights “it can also cause injury to individuals especially when you try to walk around the streets at nights.
“I have spoken to them I am willing to be very flexible…they did not get the requite approval,” he added.
Since the start of this month, hundreds of Venezuelans, fleeing the economic and political situation in their homeland, have gathered outside the centres –two in Trinidad and one in Tobago – desperate to register in the amnesty drive that the Keith Rowley government said would end Friday.
Police said they expect an influx of migrants to try entering the country illegally to register as the deadline approaches and have beefed up patrols. They said they have already detained several people including children at a beach at Morne Diablo in south Trinidad.
Opposition legislator, Dr Roodal Moonilal has called for an extension to the amnesty accusing the government of taking a “disastrous approach” with the existing process.
“The government has absolutely no option now than to extend this period, having started it. It would be inhumane and possibly a breach of rights of the migrants now, if they do not have a reasonable time to register,” Moonilal said.
The human rights group, Amnesty International, has issued an open letter to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley urging the government to reconsider the decision not to extend the deadline for registration.
It said that two weeks were not sufficient to register the large number of Venezuelan migrants.
In the letter to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Amnesty International Director Erika Guevara Rosas noted that with the registration deadline looming, thousands of Venezuelans continue to line up outside the registration centres in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Tobago.
“We also remind you that those fleeing are likely to be refugees, they may not be able to present the documents required as part of the process,” the statement said, adding that the authorities should not impose restrictions or conditions that impede access top protection mechanisms.
The June 11 letter said also that the UN refugee agency has indicated that the majority of those fleeing Venezuela need international protection, noting that when the registration period ends on June 14th, the enforcement of existing immigration laws will resume.
“We take this opportunity to remind you that even after the registration period ends, Trinidad and Tobago remains bound by its obligations under the convention of 1951 relating to the status of refugees and its Protocol of 1967, to respect the rights of those seeking asylum,” the letter stated.
Venezuelans have been fleeing their country where opposition forces backed by the United States and other western nations are seeking to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power.