CoP Gary Griffith at yesterday’s press conference on Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has sought to highlight the lenient penalties being handed down to illegal immigrants.

In a press release issued by the T&T Police Service (TTPS) yesterday, Griffith pointed to the case of 24 illegal immigrants, who were reprimanded and discharged by a magistrate after pleading guilty to illegal entry into the country.

The release said: “The commissioner says that there is far too much liberty being afforded by judicial officers to the illegal Venezuelan entrants which permeate our borders, without any form of redress for their misdeeds, and who are likely to be bringing the COVID-19 virus to our shores.”

He suggested that such lenient sentences would serve to embolden migrants as there is no deterrent effect.

He pointed to Section 40 of the Immigration Act, which makes illegal entry an offence and carries a penalty of a $50,000 fine and three years imprisonment for first time offenders. Repeat offenders are liable to a maximum $100,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Griffith also revealed that 12 people, who were recently convicted of aiding and abetting Venezuelan migrants at illegal ports of entry, were each fined $1,500, a fraction of the maximum penalty possible under the legislation.

He also noted that the TTPS could apply under the Proceeds of Crime Act for vehicles found to be used to transport illegal immigrants to be seized and forfeited.

Griffith warned that under the Public Health Ordinance and associated regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers can also charge illegal migrants with a separate offence for entering the country without an exemption due to the closure of the country’s borders. That offence carries a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and up to six months in prison.