Judge grants injunction to stop Venezuelan refugee being deported

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Robin Mohammed. –

A HIGH COURT judge granted a late-night injunction on Wednesday stopping the deportation of a Venezuelan woman granted refugee status by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Trinidad and Tobago in January 2021.

On Wednesday night, Justice Robin Mohammed granted the injunction stopping any steps to remove Lourdes de Rojas from the jurisdiction until an application is heard before Justice Devindra Rampersad on Monday.

Mohammed also ordered the Attorney General and the UNHCR served with all the documents before Monday’s hearing.

De Rojas is represented by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Dayadai Harripaul, Umesh Maharaj, and Nerisa Bala.

The application said De Rosa, 55, lives at Olera Heights, San Fernando, with her daughter and granddaughter. The granddaughter, who is one year and four months old, was born in Trinidad and has a Trinidadian father, the claim said.

De Rosa, her daughter, and a neighbour fled Venezuela and entered Trinidad on November 17, 2019, by boat. She went to the Immigration Department “because she wanted to be as law-abiding as she could,” later lodging an asylum claim with the UNHCR in May 2020.

She was told in January 2021 she had been recognised as a refugee by the UNHCR, but in February 2021, she was served with a deportation order.

The application said, “UNHCR expressly stated that the claimant was protected from forcible return to Venezuela. The claimant brought the UNHCR letter to the attention of the immigration officials.

“An immigration official through an interpreter informed the claimant that she had to be deported and, in the meantime, she had to keep presenting herself to immigration.”

It also said she was told the UNHCR letter was invalid and could not prevent her deportation.

She said each time she went to the immigration division, she would be asked for her return ticket to Venezuela and was told to visit the Venezuelan Embassy so her name could be put on a list for voluntary repatriation.

“That was not an option for the claimant because she had no intention of voluntarily returning to Venezuela,” the injunction application said.

She eventually went to the embassy on April 13, “out of fear and desperation,” and was allegedly told it did not help anyone economically and she would have to keep waiting.

The next day, she went to the immigration division and was given another order of supervision and told to return on April 21 with a ticket.

The application said De Rojas was entitled to enjoy all the rights guaranteed to her under the Constitution and international law, and the steps being taken to deport her were “a most flagrant and abhorrent abuse of power” by the State to deprive her of those rights.

“The actions of the respondent to seek to deport the claimant while the claimant is a recognised refugee is in breach of the best interest principle, in breach of the provisions of the Immigration Act, in breach of the international obligations of the State of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, in breach of the national policy to address refugees and asylum and in breach of the Constitution and is a most oppressive, unconstitutional, and unlawful exercise of powers.

“Such action directly violates the international obligations of the Republic as being a member of the UN,” the application contended.