Hinds: Discussions ongoing to remove children from heliport

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said discussions are taking place between the Children’s Authority and the authorities in charge of the Chaguaramas Heliport for the relocation of three children located there.

Responding to a question from Opposition Senator Wade Mark in the Senate on Tuesday, Hinds said there were approximately 40 people, including three children, being assessed at the Heliport currently.

“The Heliport is not a detention centre, it is an assessment centre used when people approaching our borders or having landed illegally and not presenting themselves at one of our formal legal ports of entry are taken into custody. Due to covid19, people have to be quarantined and screened for the virus, and this facility is for that and for them to be assessed by immigration for their landing status. They are there for those purposes and then to repatriated promptly as applicable.”

In a letter on May 13, attorney Criston Williams wrote a letter calling for the immediate removal of three children, ages three, eight and 15, from the heliport 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 centre.

Hinds said the children are at the Heliport as families are kept together.

“The preferred option is that people prefer to be with their children, so the children are there with their parents. Families are kept together, and they get the same meals as officers of Coast Guard, as the Coast Guard provides the meals.”

He said while action was taken to repatriate certain adults from the facility, the immigrants challenged the repatriation order.

“The court suggested that alternative arrangements be made for the three children. Arrangements are now being made between the Children’s Authority, to whom the court directed that focus, and those responsible for their safekeeping at the heliport. Those discussions are underway and the matter is expected to be resolved. It only arose because they challenged their deportation orders.

“The parents of those children opted for and signed with the Venezuelan mission here and strangely their lawyer came to court and said no, which created a discrepancy, and that matter was reported to the Law Association, as it seems the lawyer may have been acting in opposition to the wishes of their client.”