BEING registered for anything in 2019 brings overtones of information acquisition and legitimate concerns of data abuse and possible surveillance. The more any third party knows about any individual, even one as critical as the government, the greater their vulnerability. But other vulnerabilities are becoming clearer after faltering management of the Venezuelan migration to TT over the last 18 months.
Last week, the Special Operations Response Team and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit joined with Western Division police to rescue four Venezuelan women who had been kidnapped and held hostage at a house in Diego Martin. Almost contemporaneously, at a press briefing held at the TTPS Administration Building, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith was calling for the deportation of Venezuelans who, through intelligence gathering, were believed to be involved with criminal activity. That’s a project that seemed more like pre-crime prediction and a questionable proposition in a democracy.
The courts also spoke on the matter last week, when 56 Venezuelan men and women appeared in court, charged with entering the country illegally. They have each been fined $5,000 with the option of spending three months in jail after acknowledging that they arrived without reporting to an immigration officer.
The lapses which have caused this situation to proliferate cannot be allowed to continue. They have demonstrated the consequences of a porous coastal security net, even when the security forces could expect illegal incursions. That has left Venezuelan citizens to find their way in an unfamiliar country that largely doesn’t understand their language and vulnerable to predators. It has also made it possible for shifty refugees to enter without sensible security screening.
Now that the Government of TT has formally decided to address the presence of Venezuelan refugees in this country, it must endeavour to do so with the most positive approach possible. Clearly, the thousands of refugees in this country, a number that has been growing steadily through the government’s months of denial of the issue, must be subject to the same rules that govern any visitor to our shores, and that should include a proper background check. The TT Government should know who you are, where you live and any relevant information about you, including your qualifications, to plan a meaningful response to the growing presence of Venezuelan nationals.
The preliminary plan following the start of registration in June to allow a year of work for all registered nationals, must only be the first step. The Government needs to formulate a strategy for this influx of refugees that addresses their desperate circumstances, screens for dangerous agents and pivots thinking from a problem to be managed to plans for engaging and enabling a valuable human resource.