Children were fainting in 33°C weather as thousands of Venezuelan migrants rushed to register for Government’s amnesty ahead of Friday’s deadline, which National Security Minister Stuart Young said won’t be extended.
It means that those who are not registered when the three centres—Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, the Achievors Banquet Hall in San Fernando and Caroline Building in Scarborough, Tobago—closes face deportation back to Venezuela. He said a decision would be taken on those who register online before the expiration of the deadline.
Young said those in the prison system will also be deported. Using an interpreter to speak to the migrants who crammed under tents outside the San Fernando centre, Young thanked them for registering but urged them to complete the process.
The registration process began on May 31 and since then hundreds of Venezuelans have been lining up, some overnight, to be able to work and live in this country for up to a year.
“The Government is not going to be extending the registration process. We have had the online process set up, we have been processing people and we are not going to be extending. I started off yesterday morning with an early meeting with the acting Chief of Defence Staff, our Commissioner of Police and our intelligence services to make sure that we continue as much as we can to lock down our borders,” Young told reporters.
He said the Police Service and the Defence Force have been monitoring the coasts and have been turning away boats trying to come to T&T, as he dismissed reports that boatloads of fresh migrants had landed recently.
Police was on duty to manage the traffic as thousands of migrants spilled off the pavement, the waiting area and surrounding buildings along the SS Erin Road, Duncan Village.
The staff there reported children and pregnant women fainting and falling ill after waiting for hours in the line. Young, who toured the facility, said that he saw a child, who suffers from epilepsy, receiving medical attention.
“Yes, I have seen some pregnant women and we are trying to move as quickly as we can. Again, there are the things you face when you are dealing with mass crowds, not only for registration but when you are doing concerts and you have huge crowds lining up, there are always problems you face.
“We are doing the best we can and are treating people as humanely as we can. As a citizen of T&T, I am very proud of the process. There was a lot of criticism even before. By and large, it has gone extremely well.”
But for several migrants, they found the process to be unfair as they said some officials were picking people out of the line and giving them preference.
Marly Marcano said she had been waiting to be registered since Saturday but kept being pushed back. Almost in tears, she said showing up to register has brought her a lot of discomfort and pain.
As for children born here, Young said international practice will continue and they will become citizens. He declined to provide an estimated number of Venezuelans already registered up to Monday.
He said it does not make sense giving figures on a daily basis as it changes as the day goes along and people begin to speculate.
He said that at the end of the registration, he will tell the public the final count of migrants registered and the cost incurred.