As the Venezuelan migrant crisis worsens, attorney Nafeesa Mohammed who is representing migrant groups in court is warning the Government to be careful with its words so as not to stir up xenophobia against foreigners.
“What is unfortunate is that the utterances from the highest levels this week, it was geared towards stirring the pot on the ground when it was said it is a matter for the people. However, it is not as if T&T has an election again. This is a matter that requires careful handling. It requires diplomacy. These are sensitive matters involving national security. This should not be about stirring up xenophobia,” she told Guardian Media by phone on Saturday.
Mohammed is currently representing a group of migrants at court who were deported but returned to the country last Tuesday.
As far as she knows, there are 29 of them from that group who are all at the Chaguaramas Heliport.
She also called on the Government and Immigration not to deport migrants while the matter is before the court.
She said the court had given directives for the timelines concerning court applications and both counsels, from her side and the State will be in dialogue to work out an appropriate timetable to deal with the issues.
She accused the Government of having no policy to deal with migrants and added that the situation will only embarrass T&T’s standing internationally.
“Our policy framework and the administrative mechanisms, it is not in keeping with the best practices that are recognised internationally. The mass migration that we have been experiencing has intensified since 2017 and we have taken too long. This was bound to have imploded for some time now. The registration and amnesty were just a plaster on a sore. The problem is a management issue and we need to get our systems in place.”
She also said that family reunification was at the core of international best practices and the country needs to deal with issues more humanely.
“In 2014 there was a policy document that the Cabinet of the day had declared to be towards a phased approach for national policy to deal with refugees and asylum seekers. Since that time, the State has introduced a refugee unit within the Immigration Department. I would expect that that department would be keeping up to speed with international best practice.”
Mohammed is hoping that whatever is done will respect the human rights of migrants.
“We are hoping that this will be resolved in a humanitarian way. It is not difficult, it is not rocket science. Many of the parents and relatives are here legally and we hope and pray that the authorities would make this as easy as possible for the reunification of the families.”