Lawyers representing Venezuelan migrants, including a group of children who were released from the Chaguaramas Heliport this week, have requested information on Government’s current policy on refugees and asylum seekers.
In a letter sent to the Immigration Division this week and obtained by Guardian Media, attorney Kerrina Samdeo questioned Government’s current stance on the National Policy on Refugees and Asylum Seekers, which was approved by Cabinet in 2014.
Samdeo noted that while the policy was not laid and passed in Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and several Government ministers affirmed it while responding to questions on the Venezuelan migrant crisis in Parliament.
Samdeo also pointed to two recent immigration cases in which State attorneys gave inconsistent statements on the state of the policy.
According to Samdeo, in one case the policy was deemed valid and then illegal in the other.
“The policy adopted by the Government of T&T has created a legitimate expectation for refugees not to be persecuted or subjected to inhumane treatment or to be refouled,” Samdeo said.
She suggested that if the policy was no longer being upheld it would essentially mean that this country was denouncing the United Nations’ 1951 Convention on the Status on Refugees.
She requested a response by 4 pm yesterday but none was received.
In a decision, on Tuesday, High Court judge Joan Charles ordered the release of 10 minors and four of their mothers from a migrant detention centre at the Coast Guard’s Heliport in Chaguaramas.
She noted that this country’s immigration laws and policies did not provide for the detention and deportation of children.
As the minors had to be released into the custody of relatives, Charles had to also order the release of some of their mothers, who were detained.
Guardian Media understands that some of the children whose parents and relatives are registered migrants living in Trinidad, were detained alongside the mothers and their children as they made the journey to Trinidad together and were caught by police in south Trinidad soon after.
Those children were released into the custody of their parents or relatives, who pursued the litigation on their behalf.
As part of her orders, Charles directed that the Children’s Authority perform an assessment of the homes that the children and adults would be going to and report back to her in 21 days.
The children were represented by Criston J Williams, Jerome Riley and Kerrina Samdeo. Deputy Solicitor General Neal Byam represented the Office of the Attorney General. Sharlene Jaggernauth represented the Children’s Authority.