Detained Venezuelans at the heliport in Chaguaramas. – File photo/Grevic Alvarado
Venezuelan migrants arrested during a police exercise in St James on July 9 were spared deportation because of an issue with paperwork, Quantum Legal attorney Blaine Sobrian said in a phone interview on Friday.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Sobrian and Quantum Legal’s founder CJ Williams said over 100 Venezuelans which included five of their clients were to be deported on Thursday. The five men are between the ages of 20-30.
On Friday, Sobrian said this did not happen and there were reports of a mix-up with the paperwork between TT and Venezuela. However, there were reports of other factors involved, he added.
He said the firm had not heard of another day for the deportations.
At Wednesday’s conference Sobrian referenced the case of Luisana Fidela Velasquez Hernandez and others versus the Chief Immigration Officer in April, last year.
In that case Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that a person should not be deported before a determination is made where the individual makes an application for a minister’s permit or UNHCR status. This was why their clients should not be deported, Sobrian then said.
In that ruling the court issued an order of mandamus (an order requiring an act to be done) ordering the Chief Immigration Officer to release those applicants on the supervision order pending the outcome of their request for a minister’s permit and the determination of their claim for refugee/asylum seeker status. All five of these detainees were released. A final ruling on this matter is still before the court. This matter will come before the court again on September 14.
The five men have UNHCR cards and were said to be applying for a minister’s permit, Sobrian then said.
“Therefore, any action to remove our clients from the jurisdiction would be illegal and an affront to the decision of the High Court.”
At that conference, the attorneys also complained of not having access to their clients at the Chaguaramas Heliport.
“As we have been constrained in our access to them, they have been unable to make said application,” he added.
The firm called for the state to examine the “poor” conditions at the Heliport.
Venezuelan activist Yesenia Gonzales, also present at Wednesday’s conference, called for compassion and asked the Government and Health Ministry to look into the reports at the Heliport.
Earlier this month there was a decision by High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad that cleared the way for refugees and asylum-seekers to be deported if they broke TT’s immigration law. Bodies such as the UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency spoke out about the ruling saying it was concerned about the implication of this for all asylum-seekers.