Press Release:– UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNICEF are deeply saddened by news of the death of a baby during an interception at sea off the southeast coast of the island of Trinidad on Sunday.
The vessel, which was transporting Venezuelans, was intercepted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard when it entered its maritime territory.
According to the Coast Guard, a woman and an infant were injured in the incident. The woman was taken to a health facility. The infant regrettably died.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and convey our heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones who are grieving this loss and a speedy recovery to the injured. Nobody should have to lose their life in their search for safety, protection and new opportunities,” said Dr Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “This incident highlights the plight faced by people on the move during desperate and dangerous journeys to safety.”
In the absence of sufficient safe pathways, many Venezuelan refugees and migrants are forced to resort to risky sea and land crossings, that have become even more complex as travel and health restrictions limit formal paths of entry.
Pathways for entry and stay should be consistent with international human rights law and humanitarian considerations and include access to due process and procedural safeguards.
State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child must safeguard the rights of all children on their territory, irrespective of their nationality or status. Parents are oftentimes seeking a safer and brighter future for their children, and yet tragedies are all too common.
“No migrant child should ever die, whether traveling with their parents or alone. No mother wants to put the lives of her children at risk on a small ship in the deep sea, unless she has no other option,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director. “Two in three Venezuelans on the move are women and children. This tragic event is a stark reminder that they are the most vulnerable among the vulnerable. They deserve special attention, protection and safety – anywhere and anytime.”
UNHCR, IOM, OHCHR and UNICEF are appealing to States to establish mechanisms that will help protect the rights of people on the move – particularly women, girls, boys, and others with specific protection needs – including the right to have access to proper regularization and asylum procedures.
“To prevent these tragedies from happening again, safer pathways for refugees and migrants are needed,” Dr Stein said. “Systems that can ensure the safe and regularized entry of refugees and migrants can deter people from resorting to smugglers and will ultimately save lives.”
“States should take measures to guarantee that the right to life of refugees and migrants is always respected. We call on the authorities to investigate this incident,” said Alberto Brunori, OHCHR Regional Representative for Central America and the English-Speaking Caribbean.
UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF and OHCHR have productive relationships with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, including the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.
We reiterate our commitment to sharing our expertise and international human rights standards and experience and stand ready to lend technical assistance to Trinidad and Tobago to ensure access to protection and assistance is provided to all those affected by human mobility.
UNHCR, IOM, OHCHR and UNICEF offer their heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones grieving this loss. Humanitarian assistance and support are being offered to help them during this time.
There are more than six million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world, the majority of whom are hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), in January 2022, there were approximately 28,500 Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Trinidad and Tobago.
Headline photo: A Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard vessel