Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne at the ministry yesterday.

Trinidad and Tobago has always been a good neighbour and hospitable land and this will not change —and Government has neither inclination to be drawn into the internal political contests of other countries, nor to respond to their various participants.

So said Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne yesterday in a statement on the controversy concerning the illegal landing of a group of Venezuelans recently. The 28 people—including 16 minors—landed, were sent back and then returned to these shores. Matters are now before the court.

Browne spoke as National Security Minister Stuart Young announced an upcoming meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza.

Browne’s statement followed criticism T&T has sustained from some international quarters on the migrants’ issue

It also appeared to reference recent criticisms of T&T by Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has slammed T&T on the migrant issue. Guaido isn’t contesting Venezuela’s election next week—December 6. But Bloomberg Opinion on Thursday reported Guaido is “pushing” for a national referendum on December 6 also.

Browne said, “T&T is a sovereign nation that is doing its utmost to overcome a pandemic that remains a clear and present danger to the globe. As a small island state, we have compassionately taken the unprecedented step of officially registering and facilitating over 16,000 migrants from Venezuela to live and work in T&T. This hospitality continues even as our economy faces significant challenges that have affected all our people,” Browne said.

“Everywhere you go in T&T, you find our Venezuelan brothers and sisters living, working, being educated and engaging fully with our health care system and other sectors. We assert that this reality must be well known and acknowledged by all responsible parties.”

Browne added, “There is another reality affecting our sovereign nation, and that is the flagrant disregard for our nation’s borders by drug runners, gun runners, human traffickers, others linked to organised crime in South America, and specifically by mercenaries who contribute to the exploitation of women and children and profit directly from the facilitation of illegal crossings.

“These exploiters do not seek the genuine interest of those they profit from and they have no qualms about adjusting their strategies to take advantage of any loopholes that may be created by others.

“In the current circumstances, our nation simply cannot open its borders or reduce protections for the health and welfare of our people. Even developed nations with far greater resources face major challenges dealing with crossings of their borders, and no nation accepts non-nationals without due process.”

Noting courts are now engaged in considering the recent illegal landing, he said, “We await the full determination of this matter within our legal system and reserve the right to make appropriate adjustments in accordance with the law and in pursuit of the best interest of our nation.”