Migrants worried about new visa requirement

Gov­ern­ment’s visa stip­u­la­tion for Venezue­lans is caus­ing con­cerns among some Venezue­lans who are due to come here soon, as well as re­cent reg­is­trants who had planned to bring rel­a­tives over.

Their con­cerns are about the pro­ce­dures to be and how ef­fi­cient­ly the sys­tem will be im­ple­ment­ed.

The stip­u­la­tion was an­nounced by Gov­ern­ment last Fri­day at the end of the two-week amnesty reg­is­tra­tion process for Venezue­lans. The visa news was wide­ly re­port­ed in Venezuela yes­ter­day al­though some of the trans­la­tion was cu­ri­ous.

Venezue­lan born T&T based ac­tivist Araceli D’ Olivierre, an in­ter­preter, said: “It’s a way to con­trol flow since for decades we’ve en­joyed com­ing and go­ing with­out prob­lems. In re­cent years we’ve had to have a let­ter of in­vi­ta­tion and that spawned a busi­ness in the sale of such let­ters but right now many Venezue­lans are call­ing me in a pan­ic since they had bought tick­ets to come next week and they want to know what to do about the visa as­pect.

“Moth­ers who reg­is­tered here last week said they were go­ing to bring their kids and don’t know what to do now. One said she doesn’t have mon­ey to bring the child legal­ly with a visa and may try to do so il­le­gal­ly. I ad­vised her not to even try since even though Trinidad and To­ba­go has chal­lenges man­ning the bor­ders, any­one caught will have the weight of the law on them,” she said

D’Olivierre was con­cerned about those who failed to get reg­is­tered last Fri­day

“Many who had been here il­le­gal­ly a year-plus tried to get reg­is­tered, on­ly to find that hun­dreds who en­tered il­le­gal­ly in re­cent days came straight off the boats and slept out­side cen­tres to get in, block­ing the oth­ers,” she said.

“I’m sure those who were un­suc­cess­ful are in hid­ing. One woman cried. She said she sold every­thing she had in Tu­cu­pi­ta for US$700, paid US$300 to come here and now she’s stuck—no reg­is­tra­tion, noth­ing to re­turn to. But I’m very grate­ful to Gov­ern­ment for of­fer­ing the amnesty.”

Venezuela born Mon­i­ca Joseph said: “We re­spect the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion on the visa in­tro­duc­tion but there are lots of ques­tions. How will it be im­ple­ment­ed? What are the re­quire­ments? We’re hear­ing talk it may cost US$100 which is a lot since but the av­er­age Venezue­lan wage is US$5.

“Will there be an am­bas­sador to su­per­vise the process there? My fam­i­ly there say the Trinidad and To­ba­go Em­bassy is open in­fre­quent­ly. My grand­moth­er is due to come in Ju­ly for my sis­ter’s wed­ding. Will she be able to ap­ply?“

Peo­ple are won­der­ing what this means for Venezue­lans and oth­er non-na­tion­als and if Cubans, for in­stance, get spe­cial con­ces­sions. If the sys­tem isn’t ef­fi­cient­ly im­ple­ment­ed, delin­quen­cy will oc­cur and the same thing you’re try­ing to stop—il­le­gal en­try—will hap­pen. There’s con­cern that Gov­ern­ment’s tone has been in­hos­pitable on this. It’s a lot of patch­work, ques­tions aren’t an­swered, so we’re wor­ried.

“Be­cause of the way things have gone re­cent­ly, it’s al­most doomed to fail, though if done prop­er­ly it will suc­ceed. We don’t want any delin­quen­cy to hap­pen for Trinidad and To­ba­go cit­i­zens to look down on us. We al­ready know some peo­ple don’t want us here, so we hope it works,” Joseph said.

Op­po­si­tion MP Su­ruj Ram­bachan who served as For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter in the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment said the visa stip­u­la­tion is an in­di­ca­tion that Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to “catch up and prove they’re se­ri­ous about de­port­ing il­le­gals, but this is af­ter the fact that many are here and hun­dreds like­ly il­le­gal­ly.”

He added: “If they’re find­ing peo­ple in ware­hous­es and such there may be more like this. When Gov­ern­ment was sup­posed to close the bor­ders it wasn’t done with ef­fi­cien­cy so the visa’s an af­ter­thought.”

Point Fortin may­or Ab­don Ma­son is how­ev­er con­fi­dent the visa stip­u­la­tion is a step in the right di­rec­tion to deal with the mi­grant sit­u­a­tion and ease lo­cal con­cerns about the Venezue­lan in­flux.

“I’ve had full con­fi­dence Gov­ern­ment would do the right thing. We’ve cer­tain­ly seen an in­crease of Venezue­lans who are all over now,” he said.

- by Gail Alexander-Waller

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