“[…] We should ask ourselves, ‘what would compel a mother to embark on a treacherous and uncertain seven-mile journey with her young child?’ They are human, not faceless migrants/refugees. This simple fact seemed to have been forgotten and disregarded by the authorities…”
The following Letter to the Editor on Trinidad and Tobago’s treatment of Venezuelan migrants was submitted to Wired868 by UK-based international criminal lawyer Ula Nathai-Lutchman and attorney Davina Inalsingh:
The deportation of 27 Venezuelans is one of many ‘heart-breaking’ migrant cases. It was a tremendous risk for the women and children to make the risky crossing illegally into Trinidad.
We should ask ourselves, ‘what would compel a mother to embark on a treacherous and uncertain seven-mile journey with her young child?’
They are human, not faceless migrants/refugees. This simple fact seemed to have been forgotten and disregarded by the authorities. They were subjected to ‘dehumanised’ treatment. For a four-month old baby to be treated in that manner could be seen as inhumane and unduly harsh.
It is regrettable that the authorities chose to ignore the state’s obligations, in a way that is incompatible with International Human Rights standards. The state must change its policies by humanising migrants/refugees. If not, the bleak reality is the appalling tragedy that will unfold in future crossings of the seven-mile stretch of dangerous waters into Trinidad.
The state should take no comfort that first world countries have adopted a similar stance towards desperate people fleeing human rights atrocities. Venezuela falls within one of the worst migration/refugee crises the world has faced; around 4.3 million in August 2019 (UNHCR).
As a host country, Trinidad and Tobago has made some commendable efforts to give protection and assistance to refugees and migrants in the past. That said, the saga of these 27 women and young children being deported put our country on a shameful list to the crisis in Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago is party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, which was acceded to in November 2000. The consequence being, that we, as a nation, are obliged to fully protect the rights of those in need of International Protection. To do otherwise, implies a Breach of International Law.
Despite not yet adopting national legislation to guide its treatment of migrants/refugees in need of international protection, it is a rule of customary international law, that a state may not invoke the provisions of its internal law (Immigration Act of 1976 for illegal entry), or lack thereof, to justify its failure to uphold the terms of a treaty.
It has been said, ‘you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him’. So too, you can judge a nation in the same way.