Harris: Be more compassionate, caring to migrants

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 07:15

For­mer Arch­bish­op Joseph Har­ris on Wednes­day plead­ed with cit­i­zens to be com­pas­sion­ate and car­ing to Venezue­lans who have been com­ing to our shores out of des­ti­tu­tion, ill health, hunger and po­lit­i­cal strife.

Har­ris made the com­ment one day af­ter Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young an­nounced an amnesty to Venezue­lans re­sid­ing here to reg­is­ter legal­ly and pos­si­bly work for one year in T&T.

Young warned those who fail to reg­is­ter will feel the full brunt of the law.

Har­ris agreed with the Gov­ern­ment’s stance, stat­ing that T&T need­ed to set up a data­base for Venezue­lans who have been flee­ing their home­land due to so­cio-eco­nom­ic prob­lems and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

Once reg­is­tered, Har­ris said Venezue­lans should be al­lowed to work, pay tax­es and be en­ti­tled to so­cial ser­vices.

“We don’t have the where­with­al for peo­ple to come here and not pay tax­es.”

In a pas­sion­ate plea, Har­ris said: “if there was a famine in Trinidad and Venezuela or one of the coun­tries which had (food) and we had noth­ing, we would be very hap­py to get help.”

Har­ris said he heard Trinida­di­ans say­ing we should take care of our cit­i­zens first, stat­ing that we ought to share what we have.

“I think if we do things well there will be enough for every­body. The prob­lem is the cor­rup­tion that goes on. The white-col­lar crime that puts all the mon­ey in­to the hands of a few peo­ple.”

Har­ris said it pains his heart every time there are clash­es be­tween civil­ians and mil­i­tary in the neigh­bour­ing coun­try, which has led to many deaths.

The in­flux of Venezue­lans, Har­ris ad­mit­ted has been a wor­ry­ing con­cern, as some have been com­ing her il­le­gal­ly with arms and am­mu­ni­tion.

He said some may steal due to hunger.

“Any­body who starts steal­ing should be sent back home,” Har­ris said.

Those who break the law, Har­ris felt should be de­port­ed by pirogues.

“We don’t have to send them back home in Venezuela by air­plane. The same way they come, send them back,” he said.

Har­ris al­so spoke about the 19 Span­ish-speak­ing girls who were res­cued by po­lice ear­li­er this month dur­ing raids at a Chi­nese restau­rant in Wood­brook and homes in Diego Mar­tin and West­moor­ings.

“Peo­ple who are vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing…I have friends who have dis­ap­peared and I know the pain that their fam­i­lies go through. We have to be very char­i­ta­ble to vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing. Hu­man traf­fick­ing is some­thing I do not en­dorse, just like child brides.”

For years, Har­ris said hu­man traf­fick­ing was ig­nored.

“I think peo­ple had been turn­ing a blind eye.”

Har­ris holds the view that T&T should not in­ter­fere or in­ter­vene in Venezuela’s im­passe.

“Peo­ple have to take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for their own coun­try and it’s easy to say let the Amer­i­cans come in.

The coun­try which al­lows peo­ple to come in to solve their prob­lems al­ways has to pay some­thing to the in­vad­er.

Venezuela has the where­with­al to look af­ter them­selves. Some peo­ple will die in or­der for oth­ers to live.

That is not a good thing but it has al­ways been the way. But we in T&T nev­er had to fight for any­thing.”

Har­ris said he did not want peo­ple to get the wrong im­pres­sion, as he has nev­er sup­port­ed vi­o­lence, but ob­ject­ed to the food and med­i­cine be­ing de­stroyed by Pres­i­dent Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

Hu­man­i­tar­i­an As­so­ci­a­tion wel­come ini­tia­tive

Founder of the Hu­man­i­tar­i­an As­so­ci­a­tion for Refugee in T&T Bene­dict Bryan said Young’s an­nounce­ment of an amnesty for Venezue­lans to reg­is­ter lo­cal­ly was a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“It’s some­thing a lot of NGOs and in­ter­na­tion­al bod­ies have been mov­ing the Gov­ern­ment to­wards.”

He said he hoped be­fore the reg­istry is set up the Gov­ern­ment gets the in­put of all stake­hold­ers to de­vel­op a pol­i­cy.

“There are per­sons who would have fall­en out of the sys­tem at Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion. What is their re­course? I think there should be some kind of grace pe­ri­od for Venezue­lans to come for­ward and reg­is­ter legal­ly to track every­one be­fore you can say they will feel the full brunt of the law.”

Bryan said Venezue­lans cur­rent­ly reg­is­ter with Unit­ed Na­tions High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees through the Liv­ing Wa­ter Com­mu­ni­ty.

He said the Venezue­lans he has in­ter­act­ed with have skills at all lev­els.

He said the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try which has a labour short­age was one av­enue of em­ploy­ment they can ex­plore.

Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali