Venezuelan migrants worried about new Trinidad visa requirement

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Venezuelan migrants worried about new Trinidad visa requirement
Venezuelans waiting to register at the Caroline Building in Scarborough, Tobago, on Saturday.
Venezuelans waiting to register at the Caroline Building in Scarborough, Tobago, on Saturday.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Gov­ern­ment’s visa stip­u­la­tion for Venezue­lans is caus­ing con­cerns among some Venezue­lans who are due to come here soon, as well as re­cent reg­is­trants who had planned to bring rel­a­tives over.

Their con­cerns are about the pro­ce­dures to be and how ef­fi­cient­ly the sys­tem will be im­ple­ment­ed.

The stip­u­la­tion was an­nounced by Gov­ern­ment last Fri­day at the end of the two-week amnesty reg­is­tra­tion process for Venezue­lans. The visa news was wide­ly re­port­ed in Venezuela yes­ter­day al­though some of the trans­la­tion was cu­ri­ous.

Venezue­lan born T&T based ac­tivist Araceli D’ Olivierre, an in­ter­preter, said: “It’s a way to con­trol flow since for decades we’ve en­joyed com­ing and go­ing with­out prob­lems. In re­cent years we’ve had to have a let­ter of in­vi­ta­tion and that spawned a busi­ness in the sale of such let­ters but right now many Venezue­lans are call­ing me in a pan­ic since they had bought tick­ets to come next week and they want to know what to do about the visa as­pect.

“Moth­ers who reg­is­tered here last week said they were go­ing to bring their kids and don’t know what to do now. One said she doesn’t have mon­ey to bring the child legal­ly with a visa and may try to do so il­le­gal­ly. I ad­vised her not to even try since even though Trinidad and To­ba­go has chal­lenges man­ning the bor­ders, any­one caught will have the weight of the law on them,” she said.

D’Olivierre was con­cerned about those who failed to get reg­is­tered last Fri­day

“Many who had been here il­le­gal­ly a year-plus tried to get reg­is­tered, on­ly to find that hun­dreds who en­tered il­le­gal­ly in re­cent days came straight off the boats and slept out­side cen­tres to get in, block­ing the oth­ers,” she said.

“I’m sure those who were un­suc­cess­ful are in hid­ing. One woman cried. She said she sold every­thing she had in Tu­cu­pi­ta for US$700, paid US$300 to come here and now she’s stuck—no reg­is­tra­tion, noth­ing to re­turn to. But I’m very grate­ful to Gov­ern­ment for of­fer­ing the amnesty.”

Venezuela born Mon­i­ca Joseph said: “We re­spect the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion on the visa in­tro­duc­tion but there are lots of ques­tions. How will it be im­ple­ment­ed? What are the re­quire­ments? We’re hear­ing talk it may cost US$100 which is a lot since but the av­er­age Venezue­lan wage is US$5.

“Will there be an am­bas­sador to su­per­vise the process there? My fam­i­ly there say the Trinidad and To­ba­go Em­bassy is open in­fre­quent­ly. My grand­moth­er is due to come in Ju­ly for my sis­ter’s wed­ding. Will she be able to ap­ply?

“Peo­ple are won­der­ing what this means for Venezue­lans and oth­er non-na­tion­als and if Cubans, for in­stance, get spe­cial con­ces­sions. If the sys­tem isn’t ef­fi­cient­ly im­ple­ment­ed, delin­quen­cy will oc­cur and the same thing you’re try­ing to stop—il­le­gal en­try—will hap­pen. There’s con­cern that Gov­ern­ment’s tone has been in­hos­pitable on this. It’s a lot of patch­work, ques­tions aren’t an­swered, so we’re wor­ried.

“Be­cause of the way things have gone re­cent­ly, it’s al­most doomed to fail, though if done prop­er­ly it will suc­ceed. We don’t want any delin­quen­cy to hap­pen for Trinidad and To­ba­go cit­i­zens to look down on us. We al­ready know some peo­ple don’t want us here, so we hope it works,” Joseph said.

Op­po­si­tion MP Su­ruj Ram­bachan who served as For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter in the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment said the visa stip­u­la­tion is an in­di­ca­tion that Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to “catch up and prove they’re se­ri­ous about de­port­ing il­le­gals, but this is af­ter the fact that many are here and hun­dreds like­ly il­le­gal­ly.”

He added: “If they’re find­ing peo­ple in ware­hous­es and such there may be more like this. When Gov­ern­ment was sup­posed to close the bor­ders it wasn’t done with ef­fi­cien­cy so the visa’s an af­ter­thought.”

Point Fortin may­or Ab­don Ma­son is how­ev­er con­fi­dent the visa stip­u­la­tion is a step in the right di­rec­tion to deal with the mi­grant sit­u­a­tion and ease lo­cal con­cerns about the Venezue­lan in­flux.

“I’ve had full con­fi­dence Gov­ern­ment would do the right thing. We’ve cer­tain­ly seen an in­crease of Venezue­lans who are all over now,” he said.

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