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Dillon: Decrease in illegal Venezuelans coming to T&T
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon is refuting claims that there are some 40,000 legal and illegal Venezuelans in this country.
The issue was one of many which was discussed when stakeholders met at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine on Tuesday to examine the crisis facing Venezuela.
But Dillon, who spoke to members of the media at yesterday’s public symposium held by the Joint Select Committee on National Security, said there was no empirical evidence to support this.
Saying the last estimate by the Immigration Division was done in July this year Dillon said, “Based on figures from the Immigration Department it is not the same figure I have. Over the years we have been monitoring the number of Venezuelans both coming in and out of T&T.
“From the early part of this year there has been a decrease in the number of Venezuelans coming to T&T from over the last three years or so.”
Pressed what was the figure complied by the National Security Ministry Dillon said he preferred not to say, adding it was “ not near 40,000.”
He said what remained a challenge was illegal immigrants who continuously found their way into T&T via unmanned ports of entry especially along the coastal areas.
But he said increase combined efforts by the T&T Coast Guard and Police Service in rural areas, “from Icacos to Moruga” and along the North Coast acted as a deterrent to those wanting to gain illegal entry.
“We have also re-establish bilateral cooperation with the Venezuelan authority so there is direct communication between the Commanding Officer of the T&T Coast Guard and the Commanding Officers of the Guardia Nacional.
“There is also direct communication even in terms of coordinated patrols especially in the Gulf of Paria,” Dillon said.
On whether illegal Venezuelans could be a threat to national security in terms of fuelling the illegal arms and narco trade and human trafficking Dillon said this was also difficult to prove unless presented with empirical evidence.
“We cannot suggest that the majority of people coming in illegally commit crime...I am not saying that they are not because we do have people that are both incarcerated and in the immigration centre.
“But from a security stand point we are looking at that. It is something that is on our radar,” the minister said.
He added there were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, China, Ghana and Nigeria also entering T&T.