Deportation of 100 Venezuelans begins, 45 taken from heliport to board vessel at Staubles Bay

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Relatives wave as a Coast Guard bus carries Venezuelan migrants from the heliport in Chaguaramas to Staubles Bay to be deported to Venezuela on Saturday morning. – Photo by Grevic Alvarado

The deportation of more than 100 Venezuelans began in Chaguaramas on Saturday morning as 45 migrants were taken from the heliport to Staubles Bay to be transported aboard a vessel to Venezuela.

Relatives and friends waved as two Coast Guard buses drove out of the heliport with the first group of migrants at about 11 am. They were expected to be placed on board the Galleons Passage to be taken to the South American country.

The rest of the detained migrants remained at the heliport. Members of the military, immigration, police officers and representatives of the Venezuelan embassy were also at the heliport. A video taken by someone inside the the facility, which has been designated a detention centre, showed the migrants separated from officials who sat at desks in an area cordoned off by an indoor fence.

The deportation exercise follows a week of court action by lawyers representing the migrants who sought their release challenging the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds.

On Friday, to lawyers representing the minister, attorneys of the law firm Quantum Legal appealed for Hinds to direct the chief immigration officer to release their clients.

They also asked that the minister hold his hand on vetoing their conditional release if the chief immigration officer chooses to release them.

Up to 5 pm on Friday, the group was still at the heliport although sources said steps were being taken by the authorities to have the Galleons Passage readied for their deportation. Newsday was told “normal checks” were done late Friday and approximately 100 migrants will be deported on the Galleons Passage on Saturday morning.

Also attached to the letter was correspondence from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which provided a list of the status of those who sought refugee/asylum seeker status.

The attorneys claimed the government stood to damage its international image buy pursing the deportation of migrants who may be listed as asylum seekers or refugees.

Earlier this week, on Justice Ricky Rahim ordered the immediate release of 64 Venezuelans who were detained on July 9, and temporarily gave them a reprieve by preventing their immediate deportation. Only 30 of them were released before immigration officers were ordered to stop releasing any more migrants after attorneys for the minister appealed the decision.

Friday’s letter said some of those who were conditionally released and put on orders of supervision left behind family members who remained at the heliport. One of them is the mother of a 14-year-old who remains detained although her teenage daughter was released.

The group were among almost 200 who were held at a bar in St James on July 9.

Newsday will update this story as it develops.