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UNHCR regrets deportations of Venezuelans from Trinidad and Tobago

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in a press release issued today expressed it deeply regrets the deportation this past weekend by Trinidad and Tobago of 82 Venezuelan nationals. According to the agency, these include registered asylum-seekers and individuals who had declared an intention to apply for refugee status, making their return to Venezuela a breach of international refugee law.

“The forced return of this group is of great concern,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “We are in contact with the authorities and are seeking clarification on the legal process which has led to the deportations of this group, to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago continues to abide by its international obligations.”

The group, which had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, was deported from the country on Saturday despite UNHCR’s request for access to the individuals concerned and written interventions.

UNHCR calls on Trinidad and Tobago to continue to abide by its international obligations as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and other applicable international instruments that are incorporated into its official Refugee Policy, in particular the principle of non-return, known as non-refoulement, and Article 31 of the Convention which requests signatories “not to impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence” to people who are in need of international protection.

The UN system in Trinidad and Tobago last Sunday, also indicated it was concerned by the return of Venezuelans. "The United Nations is concerned for the welfare of these people and is in contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail," said the UN Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt, through a press release.

Mr. Blewitt’s comments came after the Ministry of National Security announced that 82 Venezuelan citizens who had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, had been turned over to the Venezuelan Embassy for repatriation to Venezuela.

They were flown out of Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday aboard a Venezuelan Government aircraft. The Ministry statement said all returns were voluntary although this could not be verified independently by United Nations observers.

Venezuelans have been leaving their country in growing numbers, many in need of international protection and seeking temporary refuge in countries of the Americas region, including in some Caribbean small island states like Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations, including UNHCR and its local partners have encouraged the prompt adoption of national legislation on refugee issues, and work together to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to develop, straighten and implement its asylum policy, as well as to support host communities, while offering guidance and assistance to people in need of international protection.

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United Nations concerned by Trinidad and Tobago return of Venezuelans

Port of Spain, 22 April 2018 - The United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago is concerned after authorities in Trinidad and Tobago announced they had facilitated the return to Venezuela of scores of Venezuelan citizens, including asylum seekers, who had been in detention.

"The United Nations is concerned for the welfare of these people and is in contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail," said the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt, today.

Mr. Blewitt’s comments came after the Ministry of National Security announced that 82 Venezuelan citizens who had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, had been turned over to the Venezuelan Embassy for repatriation to Venezuela.

The group, comprising 53 men and 29 women, included several individuals who had been registered as asylum seekers in Trinidad and Tobago as well as others who had initiated asylum requests or had signaled an intention to do so.

They were flown out of Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday aboard a Venezuelan Government aircraft. The Ministry statement said all returns were voluntary although this could not be verified independently by United Nations observers.

Venezuelans have been leaving their country in growing numbers, many in need of international protection and seeking temporary refuge in countries of the Americas region, including in some Caribbean small island States like Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations and its local partners have encouraged the prompt adoption of national legislation on refugee issues, and work together to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to develop an efficient and secure asylum system.

Contact

Ruben Barbado, Protection Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 1-868-623-7056 ext. 26

 

 


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venezuela infographic1

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UN agency issues refugee protection guidance for thousands of Venezuelans fleeing crisis-torn country

As deepening economic woes force thousands of Venezuelans to flee the crisis-gripped country, the United Nations on Tuesday issued guidance on treating the population as “refugees,” while the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the outflow into neighboring countries such as Colombia constitutes a “humanitarian disaster.”

“The movements are taking place for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, lack of food, medicine or access to essential social services as well as loss of income,” Aikaterini Kitidi, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

“While not all Venezuelans leaving are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while all may not be refugees, a significant number are in need of international protection,” she added.
Since 2014, there has been a 2,000 per cent increase in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum worldwide, principally in the Americas during the last year.
While in 2017 over 94,000 Venezuelans have been able to access refugee procedures in other countries, many in need of protection opt for other legal stay arrangements, which may be faster to obtain and provide the right to work, access to health and education.

Yet, hundreds of thousands remain without documentation or legal permission to stay in asylum countries – making them vulnerable to discrimination, trafficking, sexual abuse and xenophobia.
UNHCR’s guidelines encourage States to ensure Venezuelans have access to territory and refugee procedures.

“In addition,” Ms. Kitidi pointed out “UNHCR welcomes and calls on governments to adopt pragmatic protection-oriented responses for the Venezuelan people, such as alternative legal stay arrangements, including visas or temporary residence permits, as well as other regularization programmes, which guarantee access to the basic rights of health care, education, family unity, freedom of movement, shelter and the right to work.”

UNHCR applauds countries in Latin America that have introduced such arrangements, and hopes that costs and requirements are eased, where necessary to ensure accessibility.

“It is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there,” she underscored.
While Governments in the region have been generous in their response, host communities receiving Venezuelans are under increasing strain and need urgent and robust support, to promote peaceful coexistence and prevent manifestations of discrimination and xenophobia.

“UNHCR is working with Governments to address the protection and basic needs of the outflow,” she continued. “Consequently, UNHCR has developed a regional response plan that covers eight countries and the Caribbean sub-region.”

Meanwhile, WFP Executive Director David Beasley, who is in Colombia, said the outflow of Venezuelans into neighbouring countries constitutes a “humanitarian disaster.” He said it was catastrophic that around 50,000 people are now choosing to cross the border each day, just at one location – “and that’s the legal border crossing.”

Read the full story at: UN News

More information on the UNHCR Guidance Note on the Outflow of Venezuelans

 

 

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The United Nations working closely with Trinidad and Tobago in addressing refugee challenges in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

UN - TRINIDAD and TOBAGO (22 Dec. 2017)

"Trinidad and Tobago's position as a leader in the Caribbean has been demonstrated through its commitment to creating a system of refugee protection" states United Nations Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Richard Blewitt. The United Nations recognises Trinidad and Tobago's commitment in its creation of the Refugee Policy in 2014, which is the first step towards the development of a national asylum system.

The Refugee Policy sets out a three-phased process to develop a national asylum system which, in its implementation, would acknowledge and support the basic human rights of asylum-seekers and recognised refugees as indicated in the Refugee Convention (United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees).

Although the Government, with the support of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), is progressing in the implementation of the Policy, the access to basic services needed to support a life with dignity remains a challenge for many asylum-seekers in Trinidad and Tobago. The UN recognises the frustration at the limited range of solutions available to refugee and asylum-seekers that has been expressed in the demonstration outside the United Nations House during the past several months. Accordingly, legislation must also be introduced that would codify the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, establish their legal status, and clarify the options available to them.

The implementation of the asylum-system and its supporting legislation will provide opportunities for refugees to integrate and contribute productively to the society in Trinidad and Tobago through the provision of legal documentation and access to work, education, and health services. Until the necessary legislation is passed, the UNHCR will continue to work with its partners and the Government to develop interim solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers here in Trinidad and Tobago.

"The Caribbean is not immune to the refugee crisis occurring in the rest of the world," says UNHCR Protection Officer, Ruben Barbado, "and we value the actions taken by States such as Trinidad and Tobago to honour the commitments of the Refugee Convention."  Such commitments  serve to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees so they can rebuild their lives and contribute to creating a stronger, more inclusive society for all. 

 

Press release issued by the United Nations in Trinidad and Tobago on 22 December 2017

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Contact

Email: unic.portofspain@unic.org 

Telephone: 1(868) 623 8438 or 623 4813

Fax: 1 (868) 623 4332 

Address: 

2nd Floor Bretton Hall, 16 Victoria Avenue, 

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

 

 

 

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