Convicts from Latin America coming to Trinidad and Tobago posing as Venezuelans

Convicts from Latin America coming to Trinidad and Tobago posing as Venezuelans
From left, Chief Immigration Officer (Ag.) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews and Immigration Officer IV- Enforcement Unit Gewan Harricoo, during JSC yesterday.
From left, Chief Immigration Officer (Ag.) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews and Immigration Officer IV- Enforcement Unit Gewan Harricoo, during JSC yesterday. SHAL­IZA HAS­SANALI photo

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Na­tion­als from Pe­ru, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colom­bia with a string of crim­i­nal records have been com­ing to Trinidad pos­ing as Venezue­lans.

The rev­e­la­tion was made be­fore yes­ter­day’s Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee in­to Fi­nance and Le­gal Af­fairs chaired by Sophia Chote, SC.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore the com­mit­tee were of­fi­cials of the Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion and Vi­sion of Mis­sion.

The com­mit­tee was told by Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Gee­wan Har­ri­coo that in 2016 2,000 for­eign na­tion­als were placed on or­ders of su­per­vi­sion by im­mi­gra­tion while in 2017 the fig­ure dropped to 1,600.

Last year, it was 2,000. As of this year, there was a record of 200 new na­tion­als.

Such na­tion­als are re­quired to re­port to im­mi­gra­tion.

“What you are find­ing, in most of the cas­es, is there is an al­most 50 per cent breach of that or­der of su­per­vi­sion. When we check our bor­der man­age­ment sys­tems they are in the coun­try but they are not re­port­ing to us. They are work­ing with­out a work per­mit and study­ing with­out a stu­dent per­mit,” Har­ri­coo said.

Some of these na­tion­als, Har­ri­coo said would be picked up fol­low­ing a po­lice raid on­ly for im­mi­gra­tion to find out that they have “mul­ti­ple crim­i­nal of­fences” which are com­mit­ted in our shores.

Act­ing Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Char­maine Gand­hi-An­drews said the elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem can be use­ful to track such na­tion­als, stat­ing that some of the na­tion­als had “left the coun­try clan­des­tine­ly.”

Vice chair­man Clarence Ramb­harat said the or­der of su­per­vi­sion seemed prob­lem­at­ic.

With 153 for­eign na­tion­als at the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre (IDC) of which 114 are Venezue­lans, Ramb­harat said the cost to main­tain a de­tainee was $8,000 a month.

“So if you had to de­tain all those per­sons from last year…the 2,000 and the 200 from Jan­u­ary we are talk­ing about $219 mil­lion a year. $18 mil­lion a month. So it is a sig­nif­i­cant cost,” Ramb­harat said hy­po­thet­i­cal­ly.

The min­is­ter won­dered why non-cus­to­di­al sen­tenc­ing was not work­ing and could help in re­duc­ing the cost.

A Niger­ian, the com­mit­tee was told has been at the IDC since Jan­u­ary of 2015, oth­ers have been there a year.

Gand­hi-An­drews said costs would al­ways be an is­sue.

“We avoid putting them in­to prison. It is go­ing to es­ca­late. We find that more and more per­sons are com­ing in­to the coun­try and breach­ing the terms and con­di­tions of their land­ing cer­tifi­cate…re­main­ing in the coun­try il­le­gal­ly. More and more you see peo­ple en­ter­ing the coun­try with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion. And that is pro­vid­ing a sig­nif­i­cant headache for us be­cause there is nowhere to keep them,” she said.

She said im­mi­gra­tion has been pro­vid­ing the for­eign­ers with the or­ders be­cause of lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion which has not been an ide­al sit­u­a­tion.

She said ap­prox­i­mate­ly 500 have breached the Im­mi­gra­tion Act.

Chote said if there is no stay of ex­e­cu­tion or civ­il pro­ceed­ings in court “noth­ing pre­vents you from de­port­ing the per­son.”

She asked how im­mi­gra­tion was deal­ing with the ex­o­dus from Venezuela ask­ing if the 114 Venezue­lans at the IDC had com­mit­ted crim­i­nal of­fences and ap­plied for refugee sta­tus.

Har­ri­coo ad­mit­ted that “100 per cent ar­rived by clan­des­tine means.”

Among those who do not come through the le­gal ports of en­try as well are chil­dren.

“And a sig­nif­i­cant amount, if not all, we can­not iden­ti­fy. They are com­ing to Trinidad with­out any doc­u­ments. What we are find­ing they are not Venezue­lans in some cas­es. They are pos­ing as Venezue­lans. They are a lot of na­tion­al­i­ties that are com­ing to Trinidad pos­ing as Venezue­lans…Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Colom­bians and even some from Pe­ru. It takes a lot of ef­fort and time to try and iden­ti­fy these peo­ple,” Har­ri­coo said.

Har­ri­coo al­so dis­closed im­mi­gra­tion has al­so dis­cov­ered that “these per­sons al­so have sig­nif­i­cant crim­i­nal an­tecedents in their home­land and we get that through our part­ner­ship with the In­ter­pol Bu­reau.”

He said the court or­dered that three chil­dren be placed in the care of the Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer and be repa­tri­at­ed im­me­di­ate­ly.

Gand­hi-An­drews the chil­dren had to be placed at the IDC among adults.

Find­ing funds to repa­tri­ate the chil­dren, she said was an­oth­er headache as her bud­get does not cater for this.

“Some of my of­fi­cers in cer­tain cas­es have ac­tu­al­ly put up mon­ey and bought a tick­et,” she said.


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