Hinds defends migration policies: ‘Trinidad and Tobago no pariah state’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds makes a point during a press conference in Port of Spain on June 4. – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says Trinidad and Tobago needs to balance its immigration policies and the benefits of immigration with challenges such as crime.

He made the comment while speaking with the media at a two-day migration policy workshop hosted by the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) at the Trinidad Hilton on July 8.

At the workshop, representatives of Caribbean nations and migration policy stakeholders will try to develop a regional migration policy.

Delivering the feature address at the opening, Hinds said the government is aware of the complexities and challenges migration poses to the region but also equally aware of its potential for sustainable human and economic development.

He defended the government’s approach to migration as he pointed to its migrant registration framework and the decision to allow children of registered migrants to enrol in primary school.

“(The framework) allowed them to work and live here. We didn’t put them in camps in any place, and keep them in those conditions. They are allowed to roam. Some marry Trinbagonians. Their life was made as comfortable as was practical.”

Noting that 120 million people across the globe have been forced to migrate because of conditions in their countries, Hinds said he felt it necessary to restate the government’s position on migration.

“Governments, as far as possible, ought to create conditions within its borders to ensure that its people can find happy, productive, fulfilling and prosperous lives within those borders. When people are forced to move for whatever reason and go to another state, they deserve the full protection of the constitution and the laws of that country. Where persons are not deserving of that protection, (there should be) swift repatriation, as is consistent with the policy of many other countries.”

Speaking with the media after the event, Hinds said criticism of the government’s handling of migration and repatriation came from an “unthinking” position.

“It’s simply not knowing what happens. There are many, many people who have come to our shores, who have found comfort, who have integrated into the national community and our life. Every single day we have dozens and dozens of applications for citizenship, for resident status, for work permits.”

He said Trinidad and Tobago is no pariah state.

“We stand tall in respect of our international committee. We stand tall in terms of the way we administer our laws in TT. In this civilised democracy. I am proud of the way we conduct our affairs and therefore what we do can, quite easily, stand scrutiny.”

Hinds said the challenge in addressing migration lies in considering various views.

“Different individuals, different sectors in the society, in the economy, and different religious groups all have different perspectives on the same matter.

“The government’s business is to take all of the matters into account and to try to find the widest and the deepest national or public interest.”

He said these decisions must be made in the context of how the public and the country as a whole might be affected.

“We also have to take into account its impact on our society and our education system and our economy and the national security. Because as we have migration from Venezuela or Colombia, for example, the people who come are not always the most congenial and sociable persons. Sometimes gang members come among them. And therefore we have these matters to constantly take into account.

“So we had the framework…and those who have good reason to be here will remain here. But in the context of our policy, those who do not deserve the protection of the Constitution and the laws of TT will and have been repatriated to wherever they would have come from.”