Venezuelan withdraws appeal challenging Trinidad and Tobago immigration laws

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad –

A Venezuelan who initially sought to overturn a judge’s declaration that obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention did not apply to TT, as they are not incorporated in domestic law, has withdrawn his appeal.

The appeal of Justice Frank Seepersad’s ruling was filed on behalf of Venezuelan migrant Yohan Jesus Rangel Dominguez in August 2023.

Last month, the appeal was withdrawn at a case-management hearing before Justice of Appeal Mark Mohammed.

Seepersad’s ruling settles the long-standing issue over the applicability of local immigration laws to refugees.

His ruling paved the way for all migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to be deported even if they are registered with the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR). He also ruled that the principle of non-refoulement was not binding on TT.

Seepersad had been asked to consider whether local immigration legislation was compatible with this country’s international obligations to refugees.

In his challenge before Seepersad, in April 2022, Dominguez was granted refugee status by UNHCR. Several months later, he was arrested while travelling in a taxi in Fyzabad and charged with entering the country illegally.

The 33-year-old father of four pleaded guilty and was fined $2,000. The immigration division then put him on an order of supervision after he provided a $2,100 bond. In March last year, the division detained him and issued a deportation order.

In the lawsuit, he claimed his proposed deportation was illegal, based on this country’s international obligations to refugees.

The man, who admitted he is ultimately seeking to be resettled in Spain or Canada, also claimed his legitimate expectation as a registered asylum seeker with the UNHCR was frustrated. He was represented by John Heath, SC, Shalini Sankar and Annesia Gunness.