The government says it respects the rights of any person to seek asylum in Trinidad and Tobago and the decision of any foreign national to voluntarily return to their country of nationality.

However, it maintains that it has a right to repatriate any foreign national who is found to be in breach of the country’s laws and will take the necessary steps to ensure repatriation.

It explains that, to this end, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Government of Venezuela have been engaged in discussions to reduce the length of detention for those Venezuelan nationals in breach of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and to repatriate them to their homeland as soon as practicable.

A media release from the Ministry of National Security points out that the government has been collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure the protection of persons fleeing persecution and will continue to support the work of the UNHCR while maintaining law and order and national security interests locally.

The statement adds that the Immigration Division has received reports that foreign nationals have been entering the country and are being required to pay a fee to facilitate a claim for asylum, even though they are not entering the country as refugees.

It notes that further reports to the Immigration Division allege that these foreigners are being advised that they cannot be ‘touched by Immigration’ once they receive an Asylum Seeker Certificate and that they can live and work freely in Trinidad and Tobago even though they do not have the requisite legal documents.

The Ministry says these allegations are being investigated by the appropriate agencies.

It reveals that the government is concerned that many foreigners have entered the country illegally or have overstayed the landing permission granted to them by the Immigration Division and, as a result, may become susceptible to exploitation because of their irregular immigration status.

The Ministry maintains that these breaches of national security will not be tolerated by this Government and every effort will be taken to prevent exploitation of foreign nationals, while at the same time, continuing to protect this country’s borders.