Venezuelan migrants, from left - Gregoria Figueredo, Edison La Porta, Carelis Caraballo, Felix Marcano, Feiber Caraballo and Miguel Colina, outside attorney Gerald Ramdeen’s Woodbrook office yesterday. SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Rishard Khan

[email protected]

Relatives of the Venezuelan minors who were deported after trying to enter the country illegally on November 22 said yesterday they knew they were breaking the law. However, they said they were forced to do it to ensure their loved ones’ survival.

Speaking to Guardian Media through a translator, Miguel Colina, 29, said his wife Mariels Fermo, 27 and three children, aged between three to 12, were among the migrants who were deported and returned to T&T and are now being held under quarantine at the Chaguaramas Heliport. He has not seen them in two years since he left Venezuela to come to Trinidad.

“I knew it was a risk but I had the hope to have them with me,” Colina said.

“For me, it was a bigger risk to leave them in Venezuela, because in Venezuela it’s almost impossible to live – lack of food, lack of fruits for children, lack of tablets for them. My wife, when she was in Erin Police Station, she… lost a lot of weight and my children, when I saw them, they lost a lot of weight. It was too much.”

Carelys Caraballo, 23, said her two nephews and niece, aged between two and 11, were on the boat with her sister-in-law Yanitza. She said they were coming across to live with her.

“It has always been my desire to help her (sister-in-law). I have always been very close to my … nieces and my nephew,” she said.

She said both she and her husband were working very hard to be able to support the children financially when they arrived.

Felix Marcano, 44, said his wife Nelysbeth Contera, 34 and children Alicia, 9, and Zaid, 5, were on board the boat.

“The only thing that I want is that they come back with me,” Marcano said.

“All I want is to have them with me. I want to protect them. I want to give them a life that I promised them. I want to give them good meals.”

He said the situation was so bad in Venezuela that he could be killed if he is seen with food for his family.

All the relatives of the detained migrants have been living in Trinidad for at least one year and were registered during the Government’s Migrant Registration initiative last year.

On November 22, 16 Venezuelan children and nine women were deported mere hours before their court hearing. They later returned to the country and were detained by police on their arrival.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last week, the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Refugees International and 14 other organisations said their return gives T&T’s Government a second chance to uphold their domestic and international obligations to protect people seeking safety from danger.