RADHICA DE SILVA
Amidst the bustle of Christmas shopping on High Street, San Fernando, Venezuelan migrants are roaming the streets in search of work and food.
At the corner of Penitence Street, five members of the Warao tribe stood with a placard, begging for help. Four young Warao children played nearby.
A woman who identified herself as Rosanna held up a placard which read, “Please Help me. I don’t have a job.”
Another women’s placard read, ” We are the Warao ethnic group of Venezuela. Can you please help me… buy food? God bless you.”
With the aid of Google Translate, Rosanna said she lives at Penal but could not give further information, as they could not speak English.
President of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiran Singh, said he was concerned about the increase in destitution by the Venezuelan migrants.
“Given the geographical closeness we have to Venezuela, this socio-economic crisis has had a negative impact. Every day we are seeing more and more Venezuelans begging on the streets and looking for work. They seem somewhat destitute,” he added.
He explained that many of the migrants were coming to T&T illegally.
“We would have thought the Venezuelan government having held recent elections would have been taking care of their own people. The fact that they have been sailing away in droves is a worry for us, as well as businesspeople. We are trying to help as best as we can, but we have our own citizens and we have limited resources to help those who are coming here illegally,” Singh said.
He noted that there was nothing wrong with hiring migrants who are here legally or who were now legalized to work.
At several stores on High Street, migrants were seen working. One man distributed flyers on the street while several more assisted as cashiers and store clerks.
San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello, who toured the city with Australia’s High Commissioner to T&T Bruce Lendon, said he was impressed in the upsurge of activity in San Fernando. He also said he will try to assist the destitute families.
“I have not seen a lot more destitution. I will see how best we can help them and whatever we can do for them we will do to help,” Regrello said.
He said since Divali there has been an increase in activities in the city. He encouraged shoppers to come and take advantage of the deals that are now available in the city, noting that on Christmas week there will be no wrecking.