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Image from social media shows the two pirogues taking the migrant children back to Venezuela

Derek Achong

A group of Venezuelan migrant women and children who were deported with legal proceedings pending on Sunday morning, could not be returned to this country for a hearing of their case, this afternoon.

When the case was called before Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams a short while ago, Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, who led the legal team for the Immigration Division, Ministry of National Security and the T&T Defence Force, indicated that the group could not be returned as ordered by Quinlan-Williams as they were already on an island in Venezuela’s territorial waters.

Armour also explained that their current location meant that the habeas corpus lawsuit, challenging their detention by state officials, could not continue as the court no longer had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

Quinlan-Williams agreed.

Armour said his clients were entitled to request that the children’s relatives, who are registered as migrants in T&T under a government programme and filed the lawsuit, pay their legal costs for defending the claim. However, he said his clients were waiving their right to make such a claim as they recognise legitimate humanitarian claims.

Lawyers representing the TTPS also suggested that all the parties bear their own costs.

Quinlan-Williams also agreed.

The three women and 16 minors were detained after arriving in Chatam last Tuesday.

The migrants, the youngest of which is four-months-old, were tested for COVID-19 and were all found to be negative. They were held in custody by police until their deportation Sunday morning.

The migrants were placed on two civilian vessels and escorted out of T&T waters by the Coast Guard.

When Quinlan-Williams ordered that the migrants be returned on Sunday evening, she had been informed that the vessels had not returned to Venezuela and were drifting near the maritime border allegedly awaiting the outcome of the case.

The migrants were represented by Nafeesa Mohammed and Jerome Riley.