Minister of National Security Stuart Young answers a question during yesterday’s Parliament sitting.

National Security Minister Stuart Young will be holding a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart after Venezuela yesterday requested a meeting with him.

Young confirmed the meeting in Parliament yesterday while replying to Opposition queries. He said it will be a similar meeting to another which he held with Venezuela’s Internal Security Affairs Minister not long ago.

The request was received yesterday in a diplomatic note from the Embassy of Venezuela.

The request to meet with Young came two days after Venezuela Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted that they would be seeking a meeting with the T&T Government.

This followed the illegal landing of 28 Venezuelans in T&T. The group was sent back to Venezuela on Sunday after they originally landed last Tuesday but returned and matters are now before the court. Government stated it has halted deportations.

Arreaza’s message stated that on the instructions of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan government “convened” the T&T Government to a “necessary working meeting” to review issues of security, human mobility, the fight against crime and drug trafficking. He said it was the second such meeting in four months.

Yesterday in Parliament, Young struck down United National Congress MP David Lee’s claim that the meeting was “summoned.” He said the conversion of Arreaza’s tweet to English was that the Venezuelan authorities had requested the convening of a meeting with Government.

Young said, “And I repeat, I’ve said that months ago I held a meeting with the equivalent of the Minister of Internal Security Affairs in Venezuela and we continue those discussions.

“So this meeting is yet another one of those meetings, we’ve had many of those meetings – the last meeting was a virtual one due to COVID.

“This meeting will also be a virtual meeting. We have now received a diplomatic note from the Venezuelan authorities, as required, asking that I meet with the Venezuelan equivalent of the Minister of National Security and I’ll do so virtually along with our National Security personnel.”

The date and time for the meeting is to be determined, he said.

On other Opposition queries on the Venezuelan group being “deported,” Young said the group was “escorted” out of T&T’s border.

“The immigration law is very clear. I use the word ‘escorted’ – escorted does not mean ‘deported’,” he added.

On whether Government will open another registration to legalise more illegal Venezuelans in T&T, Young reiterated that at this stage he cannot say what was the future intention and while that may change, at this time there’s no plan to open another registration exercise.

Noting the 2019 registration exercise where T&T took in 16,523 Venezuelans, he said our size is something Government is very conscious of.

“And Government’s duty is to protect and secure the people of T&T.”

Young also repeated he’d soon seek Cabinet approval for the extension of the current amnesty for the 16, 523 registered Venezuelans.

Questioned about why the recent group of illegal Venezuelans was sent off while a matter was reportedly in the court, Young replied,”By the time the attorneys got to courts at midday last Sunday, the Venezuelans had been escorted out of T&T’s border.

“There was no matter being argued in the court while they were in T&T’s jurisdiction – they were already outside of T&T’s jurisdiction.”

Young expressed concern on the way anecdotal information was being floated, including in the courts.

“… How many children, who are the parents, if there was a baby four months old, what are the documents, and the authentication, as opposed to anecdotal questions.”

On queries about whether T&T has a refugee/migrant policy, Young said there is indeed one but the matter is currently sub-judice and before the courts in the migration matter and could not be discussed at this time.