Talk to Homeland Security.
That’s the direction from the US Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago on reports that US Senator Bob Menendez said he has confirmed information that the US did “stealth deportations” of Venezuelans through this country earlier this year.
In response to queries from the T&T Guardian yesterday, the embassy’s Public Affairs division replied, “We are aware of the reports suggesting that US deportations to Venezuela may have continued via third countries this year. We refer you to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for any questions concerning deportations.”
This after National Security Minister Stuart Young on Sunday dismissed the “stealth deportation” claims by Menendez.
Menedez last week said he’d written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Transport Secretary Elaine Chao and Homeland Security seeking more information on the issue. This after Menendez said he received recent written confirmation from the State Department that the US deported Venezuelans through T&T over January to March. He said the new documents provided to his office confirmed US deportations to Venezuela continued via third countries at least until March 2020.
Menendez said the deportations appeared to violate a 2019 US travel ban prohibiting air travel to Venezuela. He accused the Donald Trump administration of “surreptitiously deporting Venezuelans through third countries,” though US law prohibits forced repatriation of refugees to places where their lives or freedom could be threatened.
But T&T’s Young said as far as he was aware, “there’s no truth to the allegations that the US deported Venezuelans through T&T.”
Young said T&T never agreed to any such operation and he’d confirmed with Immigration “that we have no knowledge of any such incident.”
On Menendez’s claim that the State Department had confirmed deportations occurred via T&T, Young said the situation would have to have the Government’s approval and it did not.
“Neither Immigration nor me are aware of any such incident,” he added.
Yesterday, UNC MP Roodal Moonilal called for a probe of the situation and Young’s statements, which he noted made it clear Young “wasn’t aware.”
“It’s a shame and disgrace we in T&T must learn of deportee issues from a Washington lawmaker while the Rowley/Young Government are unaware T&T may have been used as a transhipment point to transit deportees. We need a probe of the minister’s statement, as he seems unable to protect T&T’s borders from incoming or outgoing illegal migrants,” Moonilal said.
Moonilal also called on the Prime Minister to ensure that today’s inspection visit by a T&T team of the damaged Venezuelan oil tanker Nabarima does a complete risk assessment of the situation. He said T&T must also have a cross-functional international team to produce solutions to possible environmental disasters.