The time has come to tone down the rhetoric and to find solutions to the challenging problem of illegal migration to T&T by Venezuelan nationals.
Over the last three years, thousands of Venezuelans have made their way to T&T and other parts of the Americas, as they flee an economic and political crisis that has driven millions into poverty and created the largest refugee crisis in Latin American history.
It is understandable that many nationals find it difficult to relate to people risking their lives to make their way to T&T and this has led to mixed reception for the migrants. Some have seen them as part of the wider human family fleeing disaster in their homeland, others have seen them as people to exploit for labour, while some have used them for prostitution and human trafficking.
But no one can deny that our closest neighbour is in trouble, with the collapse of their economy, growing hunger and a regime isolated by most democratic nations.
T&T has tried to help where it can. It has provided opportunity for more than 16,000 migrants to live and work legally here and given them basic services, including health care.
The Dr Keith Rowley administration deserves praise for its decision to do what was the right thing to do then. However, as things grow more dire in Venezuela, more migrants have illegally sought refuge in T&T.
As a sovereign country and a nation of laws, T&T has a right and an obligation to protect its borders and prevent illegal entry of anyone, regardless of circumstances. However, once refugees arrive here, we must be guided by the laws of T&T and the various international commitments we signed onto in good faith.
No one, not the least this newspaper, is calling for open borders nor allowing people to flout T&T’s laws. But it is this commitment to the rule of law which demands certainty in the approach to dealing with the crisis.
It is why fake news that suggests the unfortunate deaths of two dozen Venezuelan occurred after they were turned back at the border can fester and people believe there is some truth to it.
Even if they were turned back it is a moot point because they cannot be allowed to come here illegally but the bluster of the Prime Minister and the approach of the Opposition weakens this country’s position on the matter. The Prime Minister diminishes himself, his office and T&T with his continued savage attack on anyone who does not agree with his Government’s approach to the problem and in the process ensures the many valid points he raises are seen through the eyes of belligerence and politics.
The use of intemperate language, name-calling and personal attacks are so beneath his office it ought not to be justified with significant space here, but he is the leader of the country.
The time has come for a more tempered approach and a real attempt using both diplomatic and national security measures to find a solution.