Attorney calls for Venezuelan children’s removal from heliport detention facility

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Heliport in Chaguaramas. – Photo by Sureash Cholai

Attorney Criston Williams is calling for the immediate removal of three children, ages three, eight and 15, from the heliport detention facility in Chaguaramas, and for them to be placed in the care of the Children’s Authority, in light of several allegations of abuse and neglect at the center.

In separate letters to the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, Children’s Authority chairman Dr Carol Logie and acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob, the attorney also called for an immediate investigation.

“We are of the view that the children are exposed to moral danger, are ill-treated and neglected in a manner likely to cause them suffering or injury to their health,” the attorney said.

The letters, dated May 13, said the children have been detained at the facility since March 29. They said the children sleep on beds made of wood, with thin mattresses that have no bed covers or sheets. They add that the bed frames are in a dilapidated state.

The attorney claims toiletries are rarely provided for the children, and they would have to ask for soap, toilet paper and other sanitary products. He said people who are kept in quarantine share the same bathroom as the general population of the detainees, which is inclusive of the children.

Williams also said the children are subjected to a poor diet lacking substance, which is inclusive of a breakfast of callaloo with a slice of bread, and a lunch and dinner of “very spicy” chicken and rice. One of the children, he said, refuses to eat the food because it burns too much.

“(Child named) has asked the staff of the heliport to make the food less spicy but they have not done so.

“They are provided with one bottle (of water) each day, on a good day. The children have consistently complained about the condition of the drinking water as it does not seem potable. The water smells as though it has been stored in a tank for years.”

Williams said the eight-year-old is now suffering with a urinary tract infection which causes him to urinate with difficulty, and the teenager is also suffering from a genital infection.

“Although a nurse station is provided, the children are unable to explain the issues they currently face as no interpreter is provided. This nurse station merely provides medication. “The doctor only visits approximately once every three months. There too, no interpreter is provided and therefore the children and other detainees are unable to explain the issues they are facing.”

Williams said the children are improperly assessed and are determined to be “fine” despite concerns raised by the parents and other detainees. He said no paediatrician has ever visited the facility while the three children were detained.

“Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that the facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform to the standards established by competent authorities. We are of the view that there has been a direct contravention of these well-established standards.”

Acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob said he has not yet seen the letter addressed to him.