Trinidad Guardian:- From Monday, Venezuelans seeking to enter T&T will have to get a visa as the Government announced the new measure to prevent the free flow of immigrants into this country.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young made the announcement at a media briefing at the close of the two-week registration process which ended at 5 pm on Friday.
He said over 15,000 Venezuelans were registered at three centres—Queen’s Park Oval, in Port-of-Spain, Achievors Banquet Hall, in San Fernando and Caroline Building, in Tobago.
The Minster said from his information all the people waiting to be registered were accommodated but the situation in San Fernando and Tobago was in total contrast to his statements. Told by reporters that the situation was not as he described, the Minister said that was the information he had.
“We have completed the registration process as we had said we would, we stuck to it. There were absolutely no incidents or injuries to anyone during the two-week process.”
Young claimed there no crowds of migrants waiting to be registered by the cut-off time, but rather persons who were “ring-fenced” and would have been processed last night.
He said, “The significance of that is it shows the success of this registration process and the accuracy of it.”
“This registration process was a well thought out and implemented process that is now a success, also allowed to gather intelligence,” he added.
In San Fernando, hundreds were turned away outside Achievors Banquet Hall after police cordoned off the line shortly after 5 pm. Those with online registration documents they were later told by an official from the registration centre to visit the Immigration Division next week to complete the process.
By nightfall, the group dispersed, many of them missing out the chance of benefiting from the amnesty which would have allowed them to live and work in this country. Earlier, the atmosphere was chaotic and tense as Venezuelans were not sure what was happening and were trying to get information as what was going to happen to them as the cut off time was almost upon them.
Caliz Puerto said they had organised about five lists among themselves which they were passing on to the officials to try to ensure order and discipline in the line.
She said each list had about 2,000 plus names. However, that collapsed when the cut off time was extended by an hour and immigrants began rushing, hoping to get a place.
Police officers, soldiers and members of the Air Guard stood guard to ensure law and order. There were several attempts to jump the line, causing some to protest.
Around 6 pm law enforcement officers stopped anyone else from joining the line. An official involved in the registration process came out about 15 minutes later and officially announced that registration was closed.
Speaking in Spanish, she informed them that those with the online registration forms to visit the Immigration Division from Monday to complete the process. When asked about the people who have no forms, the official said she was not given any information about them. This left many immigrants in fear that the police would arrest them.
In Tobago close to 600 immigrants were ushered to Port Mall where they were later told that they would have to spend the night and will be processed on Saturday.
In Port-of-Spain, there were no immigrants waiting in the line when the venue closed registration at 5 pm but there were about 300 inside the venue still to be processed.
Speaking at a briefing at the Ministry of National Security, in Port-of-Spain, the Minister said he had signed an order giving effect to the new visa requirement.
“Those visas will be issued out of Port-of-Spain via an application process that will take place out of our functioning embassy in Caracas.”
“Only Venezuelans who will be allowed to enter our ports of entry legally are those to whom we issue visas,” he said.
Young said additional discussions are to held relating to this latest policy decision—which previously allowed persons to enter T&T and remain for a 90-day period.
He warned that those who did not come forward to register will now be subject to the laws of T&T when they are held and will be deported.
The Minister said details on the number of immigrants who were processed during the two-week registration will be provided at a later date.
The Minister said during the exercise the Police Service was able to interrogate immigrants and gather valuable information to assist officials moving forward.
Young denounced the criticisms and misinformation he said had been circulated to, “mislead the world at large about our border situation.”
He denounced statements by the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who claimed that T&T coastline was being invaded by Venezuelan immigrants, adding that the Coast Guard had been able to turn back several boatloads of migrants in the past two weeks.
He also accused the Opposition of inciting people to protest the presence of the Venezuelan migrants, referring to a protest action outside the Oval on Thursday night.