Dr Marlene Attzs

Venezuelan women have complained of being exploited and disrespected by not only ordinary citizens but also by T&T’s immigration officials says Dr Marlene Attzs, lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

She said these migrants were interviewed in 2020 as part of the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) conversation series as well as University of the West Indies (UWI) researchers.

“Some of them, by the time they hit the shores of T&T, there is a kind of violence meted out to them and exploitation that is meted out to them by some of our state agents. There is the elephant in the room, the stereotypes of female migrants that they could not possibly be coming here to make an honest living and to remit funds back to their family. They couldn’t be here because they are trying to eke out a decent livelihood for their families back home, but they are here because they want to engage in prostitution,” Attzs said speaking at a virtual forum on Venezuelan migrants hosted by the Trade and Economic Development Unit of the Department of Economics, UWI, St Augustine, on Friday.

Some of the migrant women are even humiliated while doing interviews to enter the country.

“Some of the women interviewed have actually said that they are ridiculed by T&T’s immigration officials and state agents in terms of they come here legally and an immigration official would say to them ‘I don’t want to see your Letter of Invitation because I know what you’re here to do.’ Then he or she will use the full brunt of the power that they have to belittle and embarrass that migrant.”

Attzs said T&T needs a gender policy for migrants.

“If T&T is integrating Venezuelan immigrants into our society, it has to be an all-encompassing integration including the gender policy,” she added.

She said T&T needs an immigration policy not only for Venezuelans but for other Caribbean countries as well as countries as far as Africa.

Mariano Browne, CEO, Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, who also spoke at the virtual forum, estimates that at least 3.5 per cent of T&T’s population are already made up of Venezuelan migrants.

He said if there are 50,000 immigrants in T&T then that works out to be at least 3.5 per cent or 3.6 per cent of the population.

He added that T&T needs a proper policy on migrants and the country should have foreseen mass migration from Venezuela.

“What we have here is a failure to plan. Venezuela has been imploding for some time. This is not news and this has been happening for some time. Historically T&T has always been a sort of haven for Venezuelans during their time of crisis.”