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The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says government should allow the children of migrants to be reunited with their families, especially given the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the deportation of 16 Venezuelan children last weekend, UNHCR said: “As a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Trinidad and Tobago has the responsibility to protect children, including the right to be reunited with family members.”

The UNHCR expressed concern that “the children, may face heightened risks including the risk of being trafficked, exposure to COVID-19 and other unsafe situations. Given the circumstances in Venezuela, UNHCR asks States receiving Venezuelans to allow access to their territory.”

The agency said it is aware that a group of 29 Venezuelans, including 16 children and nine women, were deported from T&T on Sunda. Among those deported were children who were unable to be reunified with family members already in T&T.

UNHCR said: “Trinidad and Tobago has regularly returned Venezuelans it considers arriving irregularly in the country. UNHCR is aware of at least 39 children returned since the beginning of the year, not including these 16 children.”

The UN agency said it is willing “to assist the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as required, recognizing the challenges that states face managing movement of people and the additional constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On Tuesday morning, Venezuelan media confirmed that the deportees had arrived at La Barra, Venezuela, and had contacted their families.