by Radhica De Silva
Hiding in a forest camp in the hills of Palo Seco, 93 Venezuelans were arrested by police shortly after they landed in a pirogue on the Southern coast.
Looking harrassed and scared, the Venezuelans stood under an unoccupied house near Aguillera Trace, Palo Seco Settlement for several hours before they were removed from the area in marked police buses and jeeps.
They were not given any food or water, villagers said. Some celebrated the arrests saying for far too long, Venezuelans were entering the country illegally with the help of some corrupt police officers and well-connected businessmen.
The arrests started before midday. Police said they got a tip-off and went to Beach Camp where they found the Venezuelans hiding in the forested camp.
They were marched single file down the dirt track and led to the unfinished house at Dickie Trace. All the women and children were removed first and the men were left for last.
Guardian Media obtained exclusive footage of the Venezuelans as they waited to be picked up. Resident Frank Connell said the arrests were long in coming.
"It's too much of them coming in here. The situation is we do not know anything about them. We don't know who sick, who us criminals. Imagine I cannot even go to bathe in Palo Seco beach anymore because the Spanish coming in, " he said. Connell explained that the Venezuelans were waiting for their contact person to come for them when the police arrived.
Villagers stood in their homes gawking as the police patrolled up and down the road. They searched Beach Camp, Dickie Trace, Jackson Trace and in the forests of Beach Camp, which is two miles away from the beach.
Another villager who was heard conversing in Spanish said it was a sad thing to see the foreigners in this state.
"They looking for a better life, that's all," she added.
National Security Minister Stuart Young commented the police for the arrests saying the exercise was intelligence driven. He said 93 Venezuelans were arrested in the exercise and were handed over to the Immigration Division for processing.
On Monday, Guardian Media reported that five women were being held hostage in a forest camp and being pimped out for $400 an hour.
Following this statement, Senior superintendent of the South Western Division dismissed the report as fake news. He said 22 camps were searched and no one was arrested.
Guardian Media has done an expose on the trafficking of Venezuelans in TT.
The arrested Venezuelans were taken to the Siparia Police Station where they were interrogated.
Police said more arrests are imminent. Anyone with information on trafficking can contact Police Commissioner Gary Griffith at 482-GARY.