“To deport Venezuelan refugees back to the human rights and humanitarian emergency that they were fleeing, in the middle of a pandemic, is an outrageous violation of the obligations that Trinidad and Tobago has committed to under international law. No one should be forced back to a place where they are at risk of serious human rights violations.” Louise Tillotson, Caribbean researcher at Amnesty International

There is backlash today from Amnesty International following weeks of public outcry in Trinidad and Tobago on social media and in passing conversation regarding the entry of Venezuelans into Trinidad and Tobago during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Authorities of Trinidad and Tobago are pushing a xenophobic narrative, which associates people fleeing Venezuela with the COVID-19 virus,” says the Amnesty International Caribbean Researcher. She says no one should be forced back to a place where they are at risk of serious human rights violations.

Several Venezuelan nationals arriving in Trinidad in the past month, via illegal ports of entry, have been quarantined by officials. Their status following the quarantine measure would likely be deportation. On July 29th, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parasram said, “During contact tracing exercises which are going on, in last couple weeks we have reason to believe that a person or persons from that group (Illegal immigrants from Venezuela) , had been in contact with individuals who have recently managed to cross our borders. We are relying on information given by patients and their contacts in some circumstances.”

Today’s statement by Louise Tillotson argues that Instead of using the criminal law to punish people forced to leave everything behind – which also risks pushing people further underground and away from health service – the authorities should work with NGOs, UN agencies and the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have made Trinidad and Tobago their home in recent years to find solutions that uphold Trinidad and Tobago’s international human rights obligations.