Growing fears and concerns of possibly contracting the deadly coronavirus led some 80 detainees at the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo, to stage a protest, today.
The detainees, who gathered outside on the basketball court from 3 pm on Thursday, refused to go back into confinement, as they claim that they are fearful of getting sick.
Most of them were Venezuelan nationals, according to spokesperson Yesenia Gonzalez, who said she was contacted by relatives.
“Most of them are in there for having no papers but they are afraid that they get the coronavirus because they said an official went in there with symptoms and they afraid that all of them get the coronavirus,” Gonzalez said.
“Most of them inside there are young and have their families outside here and want to be safe with them at this time. They are begging the T&T Government to do something because it would be terrible if all of them contract coronavirus, ” she added.
When contacted on Thursday afternoon, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said he had a meeting with the Chief Immigration Officer about several issues.
Young assured that a decision will be made soon based on the global and national coronavirus pandemic faced currently.
“I spoke to the Chief Immigration Officer about a few issues this morning including persons who are being detained at the IDC,” the minister confirmed. “I asked that a review take place with respect to the different categories of persons at the IDC.”
He added that anyone detained there on serious criminal charges and who are before the criminal courts, are obviously in a different category to those who may be there for overstay or illegal entry.
“As soon as the review is completed decisions will be made with respect to dealing with the various categories of people at the IDC,” Young said.
On Tuesday, at the Maximum-Security Prison (MSP), prison sources claimed that on Monday a prison custodial officer, who works as an electrician, along with two prisoners who worked alongside him, were isolated.
On hearing about this, all Venezuelans detained at the MSP pleaded for a representative of the Embassy of Venezuela or an attaché, to address their health and safety concerns.
When contacted on Tuesday, Ag Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan would only confirm that some inmates displayed flu-like symptoms and added that no coronavirus symptoms were detected.
“I was informed that there are some inmates who show flu type symptoms. They were seen by the prison medical officer today and no COVID symptoms were observed. They were, however, isolated and constantly observed, as every attempt is being made to manage the wellbeing of our inmate population,” Pulchan said.
He assured, however, that the situation “is being closely monitored”.