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Flashback November. Venezuelan children are directed to a vehicle by a woman police officer who were among a group of illegal immigrants who arrived on Los Iros beach in Erin.

People who are making a living off selling the “T&T dream” of a good life to Venezuelans – and not telling them the truth on the entry process – are contributing to the illegal migration problem affecting Trinidad and Tobago.

This is the view of activist Angie Ramnarine, who heads La Romaine’s Migrant Centre and has been working closely with Venezuelans in T&T. Her observations on the issue yesterday lent context to the problem facing T&T on illegal migrants.

Ramnarine said the centre had been assisting about 70-80 children prior to the 2019 registration exercise, where 16, 523 Venezuelans – legal and illegal – registered to work in T&T.

But after the registration ended from June 2019 onwards, she said the number of children the centre assisted jumped to the current figure of approximately 200.

Ramnarine also believes there is a big organised business behind illegal migration and some people are making a healthy living by selling the “T&T dream” minus the truth of entry processes – to gullible Venezuelans who may be desperate and who are facing harsh conditions in their own country.

She said those particularly in rural coastline communities are often targetted and may not have all the qualifications or information to understand the real situation as opposed to what they’re being told.

Citing the need for heightened coastal patrols, Ramnarine said as soon as some illegals arrive in T&T they would head to the Living Waters Migrant Ministry and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) office to register as refugees, “because it seems they are told that having cards from those agencies entitle them to stay in T&T legally.”

“It seems they are also being told that by having a child in T&T entitles them to automatic permanent residence,” Ramnarine said.

She also said large numbers of Venezuelans are giving birth in local hospitals and called for accurate current figures.

Ramnarine added that those who are peddling the “T&T dream” will want to fight to protect their very lucrative livelihood.

She said a “boom” in arriving numbers occurred in the period when the borders were locked down in March and almost every week, the centre gets appeals for baby formula, diapers and in one case blood donations.

“But nobody has yet answered my questions, since the registration of what happens if a father or mother is registered and has children back in Venezuela and if some of those registered may have sent for their children, if the family broke up and they might feel a sense of scrutiny in T&T and want to bring their children one at a time,” she said.

Ramnarine said she hoped that examining the issue would also help people to take a look at themselves and T&T, “because I recognise this issue has raised awareness that there are T&T citizens facing the same issues as the Venezuelans – joblessness and financial issues, being treated with scant courtesy – whatever issues (Venezuelans) face, we also face – we are one country.”