We must manage migration

By Raffique Shah
May 01, 2018

Raffique ShahSometime in or around 1990, a large number of mostly Indo-Trinidadians, variously estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000, fled this country for Canada, and successfully exploited that country’s liberal immigration laws pertaining to refugee status and asylum, claiming political or racial persecution in Trinidad and Tobago.

The “refugees”, who were really Trinis seeking greener economic pastures in a huge, thriving Canada, realised their dreams through the wiles of a pool of “immigration lawyers” who, for handsome fees, beat the system and won them the right to live and work there. I imagine that most of them remain residents of Canada to this day, and they are happy in their adopted homeland.

That their actions condemned the 99 percent of Trinidadians and Tobagonians who stayed in this country and weathered the economic recession to having to secure visas to enter Canada thereafter was of no concern to them. They achieved their selfish goals, and that is all that mattered to them.

We who never contemplated abandoning our country during tough times, battled and survived, and, indeed, helped revive the economy and survive politicians of various persuasions. While we cannot claim to have created paradise—in fact, we are acutely aware of the many flaws that bedevil the society—we have not done too badly.

We can justly and genuinely say, each of us, “This is my own, my native land.”

Fast forward to the crises that afflict neighbouring Venezuela, a political and economic maelstrom that has brought this giant-of-a-country to its knees. Without doubt, the collapse has come about because of a combination of factors—political and economic mismanagement, plummeting commodity prices, corruption, sabotage and more.

Ours is not to reason why Venezuela’s economy crashed. That is a matter for Venezuelans to do, and to deal with. What we know is its impact on the population, certainly on the poor and middle classes, has been devastating. And what is of concern to us is the large numbers of Venezuelans who have and continue to seek refuge in T&T, most of them coming here by boat on day trips to shop for goods they cannot get in their shops, or staying here, legally or illegally, seeking jobs to earn money to care for their families back home.

From what I have read and heard, a miniscule number of them are seeking political asylum, claiming persecution by the Nicolas Maduro government. These, in my view, should be carefully screened, made to provide ample proof of their plights for several reasons.

Based on what we know from the public domain, Venezuelans can still vote for (or against) a president and government of their choice. In fact, I think presidential elections are set for sometime this month (May). They enjoy the right to protest, even to wear gas masks when they do (what will we say if such happens here?). And while scores of Maduro’s opponents have been arrested, beaten and jailed, or in fewer instances killed, the situation there is vastly milder than what’s happening in countries such as Myanmar, Yemen, Syria and the Phillipines.

Moreover, the T&T government must maintain good relations with whoever occupies the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, so we cannot be seen to be “taking sides” or interfering in our neighbour’s politics—which might be the perception should we grant political asylum to opposition activists.

Our main focus must be on how we treat with the thousands who seek economic relief in T&T. Government should have instituted clear policies on the basis on which we would allow Venezuelans (as well as persons from other Caribbean countries) to stay here for any duration, be it one night or one year. In the face of our own economic woes, the fact that our resources are stretched to their limits to enable our own people to enjoy reasonable living conditions, means that we cannot cope with any large influx of Venezuelans, or other nationalities.

These realities accepted, we also cannot escape the historical traffic of people from both countries who have forged friendships, especially those from Eastern Venezuela and South-Western Trinidad. Hell, I live in Claxton Bay, close to Trinidad Cement Limited’s port, and for more than 40 years I have encountered Venezuelans shopping at our groceries, buying barrows of dry goods.

Over the past 10 years or so, too, Venezuelan and Jamaican labourers and skilled workers have turned up on construction sites and won plaudits for their meticulousness and work ethics. In fact, contractors are happy to hire them over lazy Trinis. And they stay for short periods, repatriate their earnings, care for their families before returning here for another six months or so-all of these activities occurring beneath the radar of Immigration and other authorities, or with their tacit consent.

Of course, there is, and has always been the darker side of this Venezuela-T&T interaction. We know that most of the guns and ammunition in the hands of local criminals have entered this country via Venezuela. It is not surprising, too, that some among the new arrivals have been arrested for possession of arms, ammunition and narcotics. And we can expect a surge in Venezuelan prostitutes.

Government needs to institute immigration policies to enable the authorities to more effectively and efficiently manage the flow of foreigners into T&T. We must find ways of extracting benefits from the temporary immigrants (they will return to Venezuela when its economy rebounds).

And I agree with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when he said no local or international agency will pressure this tiny country into becoming an unholy refugee camp.

13 thoughts on “We must manage migration”

  1. Could one imagine, if ATTENTION is/was not paid to the influx of people coming to T&T SHORES. Not for a short time to work, but to live, in this TAX FREE Land. what WILL HAPPEN?? Open THE flood GATED ONCE. and you cannot control it again. T&T Have let in all type of people from The Islands/World. With not much return. Playing the Good Guys, Don’t cut it. There should be strick,Fair Laws. To say—NO, we cannot at this time, without feeling Guilty. Also telling the UN To go to hell, they are just a make work project. What have they Done, with all the Displacement around the World? All they do is encourage suffering. —Ie, look at SERIA/HAITI. ???

  2. Yes Shah this Venezuelan crisis is even looking to turn around T&T. You see Shah you are focused on the little picture. Over the years through my engineering abilities I had traveled to many countries of the world and my eyes seem to be more opened than yours. I do not mean that literally. As God says we are all blind and so he has to move us to different locations and cultures for us to open our eyes as we are often blind to what He wants us to see and do in service to Him. None of us dropped from the sky but all were carefully crafted and created to do His will on Satan’s earth. Anyway the bigger picture is …before Venezuela fell over the years from the status of the 5th largest oil and natural gas producing nation, the G8s raided the country from all its wealth for years;they were busily dividing the country much like ours and like actions that lead to consequences God decided enough was enough and like Syria and Yemen and Afghalistan and others where there is more than just what is reported about the fight there ….like in Venezuela people their needs were never on the cards…instead it was the opportunity to rape the country and lie to its people. Like in T&T the people did not have the means to prevent itself from the consequences and the rape. They conned the people where ever it became necessary to woo the people and the land for them to benefit. JUST TAKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN —PURE GREED. This is the big picture. Also, after all, war, guns, etc. is a fantastic money making business once you divide people in a country even for the NRA of America. Again Honduras in the Latin Americas is another typical example. Hence the refugee line up at the Mexican border to North America. War is a very lucrative business and FOX, CNN, MSNBC are also lapping up the gains. Shah some of us are hand picked for suffering whilst “pull string”, favoritism, close friends, lies, propaganda, and lately “Cambridge Analytica” to get your vote is part of the games played against you. Jobs and with that big paying jobs for for them and theirs alone. Shah …just take a lot at the filthy rich among your area. When you try to find out how they got there you walk into a wall of silence. Shah I complied with all they required from me, they the government about my $40,000 Honda on the port near two years running now and got complete silence from the Customs (crooks and party people), PNM Government and the Port Authority. Three huge Ministries it takes from one dot in the ocean. (needed correspondence went to The MTII, M of Finance, Minister of Works – Port and the cabinet. You really think with all the poor quality of Smiley on Poors etc, The Sea Bridge etc. they could handle about one million Venezuelan Refugees. God doh sleep. They thought it would be a walk in the park. Shah they are too dumb to know what is coming. Instead of you being humble because you are two dots in the ocean and going easy to the UN you want your “raging bull ways” to wirk for you. Yes Shah, the enemy is among you in plain sight. They have their money where it is protected….as the 1% openly said we know things will get worse. God is not sleeping. Hence for the secret deal with Maduro for raising more gas for SMILEY, the PNM, and the foreigners we need to help Maduro and hence our depleting resources like Trump and the Russian connection and Rowley have to move in a certain way for only the crooks among us to get their way. But God like in those countries is far more powerful than Satan and his G8 followers and is allowing the chaos we are seeing. FOR HIS WILL TO BE SEEN IN PLAIN SIGHT. For now what we are not seeing are the wealth resources that are busily changing hands. The real world terrorist are uncover artist. The g8s will suffer…thats all I will say. I AM NO TERRORIST. Tremendous change is going to come in the entire world. What bothers me is the greatness of power and wealth the TT homo industry like in America (the sexual issues) is taking place and is emerging each day in powerful places in Trinidad and Tobago and the value sets that go with that. I pray all the time for the innocent children coming up. These people hire their own. But the churches will overcome that eventually I am sure. So Shah this Venezuelan thing is only one part of a huge problem troubling the average calm, approachable, friendly people around we were or once knew. We have no neighbors anymore. Instead we have bandits in our neighborhoods. We share the streets and its pavements with numerous street dwellers, bandits or crooks, drugees, and mad people. We go to government authorities and spend plenty of our precious time to get little things done and of course the stories we read like NIB corruption, the health system, the judiciary, the sea bridge, HDC etc. In my father’s day they took away the controls in and then in the housing industry (from others as well like NHA) and turned it into HDC and forced housing costs upwards from thousands to millions of dollars becoming a dictatorship government pauperizing their own and making party people up high and mighty and getting business associates filthy rich and very powerful and lawless. Its amazing as the very Syrian folks in Trinidad are so blind they cannot see Trinidad and Tobago are on the cards to become another Venezuelan or Syrian crisis.. So Shah look a little on the big picture will yah.

  3. “That their actions condemned the 99 percent of Trinidadians and Tobagonians who stayed in this country and weathered the economic recession to having to secure visas to enter Canada thereafter was of no concern to them. They achieved their selfish goals, and that is all that mattered to them.”

    Where you were born is no longer the place you may die. We live in global village and as such we are citizens of the world. The refugees from TnT to Canada were economic refugees seeking a better life. One may say stay home and build, but when your opportunities are limited and there isn’t much hope then you might as well head for greener pastures.

    Many of them who I know personally has done far better than they would had they stay in TnT. They love TnT but they did not have much hope for better future due to political and economic discrimination.

    The Conservative Government in Canada sought to deport as many as they could back to TnT. They were basically an anti immigrant party, especially if you not white. Barbara McDougal the Immigration Minister at the time came to TnT and made a big fuss over it. She did not do the same for those who came from Portugal. The Portugese were the highest in terms of “refugee” applicants. With Trinis being the second for the year 1988.

    The imposition of visa requirement was unnecessary. Canada is part of the common wealth of nations. It was only when the Liberal Government came to power 10 years later that they created a class of immigrant application established under “humanitarian and compassionate” grounds. That allow for a lot of Trinis who went underground to come out and eventually achieve resident status.

    Of note there was a considerable amount of Trinis who went to the United States, perhaps more than Canada. Those Trinis many whom I know has done very well for themselves under trying circumstances. Some after 30 years have not become permanent residents because the American system does not allow for a pathway to citizenship unless you marry an American citizen. Obama tried to established a pathway but was vigorously fought and defeated in U.S. Congress. With Trump in power one can expect many to be deported. I know a deportee who ran afoul of the law and was given a one way ticket to tnt.

    The TnT government cannot do anything to assist those abroad in achieving their goals to become permanent residents particularly in the United States. This is an ongoing war between Democrats and Republican. Trump has repeal laws that Obama made to protect families that have an illegal spouse until their papers are processed. Not so with Trump. He is bent on deporting all and sundry who don’t have a particular DNA.

  4. Shah wrote: “Ours is not to reason why Venezuela’s economy crashed. That is a matter for Venezuelans to do, and to deal with. What we know is its impact on the population, certainly on the poor and middle classes, has been devastating.”

    Really, we must not analyze WHY Venezuela’s economy crashed, Imagine that?
    Not to mention that there are similarities between Venezuela’s CLASS System and Trinidad and Tobago?
    It all began with Venezuela’s “ONLY WHITE IMMIGRATION POLICY AFTER WW2’… Cementing the racial economic control of that nations’s economy (by Europeans)… and then came Chavez. Yes, we must look at Venezuela’s and the sabotaging of their economy by the ‘Euro-Venezualeans. Its why we need to truly ‘diversify’ Trinbago’s economy so we won’t be placed in a similar situation as our neighbor.

    But Here.


  5. “And I agree with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when he said no local or international agency will pressure this tiny country into becoming an unholy refugee camp.”

    The population density for Venezuela is a little over 35 person per square kilometer. For Trinidad and Tobago it is 266 person per square kilometer.

    The land mass in Venezuela is huge and the land is the most fertile in the world. If you look on a world map you can hardly find TNT. So why are they starving? A friend said they do not want to work the land because the women feel it is beneath them. I can’t say I agree with that, but who knows.

    When I was a child we planted the land, in the 60s the land was very fertile. We grew rice put it in our barn and had food for the entire year. Along with rice we grew vegetables and poultry. After my parents retired the land was abandoned. Why? For a $100 you could buy a bag of rice that would last at least a month and a half. I remember the change. Nobody wanted to work the land due to the hot sun or they saw no need for it. I still maintain a back yard garden. You don’t have to work in the hot sun. A few hours before sunrise from 5-7 you can plant whatever and it will grow.

    Trinidad has the best food and yet people by that foreign process cancer causing reject food from the US. Mental enslavement abounds. As for the Venezuelan situation it was made by the government poor handling of the economy. Now however, is a great opportunity for TNT business to grow in the south western corridor because the opportunity are endless in terms of export. Only problem is their money ain’t worth much.

  6. The Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World (Third edition 1997) stated the population of Trinidad as 1,306,000. The World Bank listed the population in 2016 as 1,365,000. I don’t think you should lose a lot of sleep about population growth.

  7. Really!! Shah and all the thousands of thoughts on these opinions are just wishful thinking. All that and no positive advice for folks to be happy. All will be well when happiness abounds! True!

  8. We can justly and genuinely say, each of us, “This is my own, my native land.”(SHAH)

    Yes, you can certainly say that, but exactly what are you proud of?
    In fact, on closer examination one can safely say that the Indians who abandoned their “native land” for the comfort of Canada were the smart ones.
    Have you considered that they were made to feel like foreigners in their own land?
    Even today there is a certain African element, suffering from some sort of phony cultural superiority, attempting to discredit the Indian community at every turn and focussed on ridiculing Indian culture and religion.
    The failed state has very little to offer except a population of imitators parading as kidnappers, murderers, gangsters, rapists, sexual abusers, corrupt politicians, perverts, hypocritical pastors, wife beaters, alcoholics and incompetent politicians.

    Those who fled to Canada have established themselves, acquired property, expanded their families, integrated into society, enjoy an elevated lifestyle, and accessed education and training for themselves and their families.

    Canada has been adopted as their home and native, civilized land.

    1. You must be very careful as to which Indians ran. The low grade enslaved ones with a few like Solo and them but most being poor and landless. Because the land holding ones ain’t leaving or as the calypsonian says ‘nah leaving’. And who owns most of the land and Real Estate now and who are mostly doctors and lawyers now in T&T. We must learn to tell the truth and the whole truth NOT THE HOLED TRUTH WITH LIES TO FRAME A CLEVER RESPONSE.

      1. And I and my family despite the name always knew ” every creed and race never found an equal place here in T&T”

        1. Like in Trump, USA at the moment, LIES COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU, BIG TIME ALWAYS and Like Patrick you die an extremely miserable, long suffering death unless you atone to God. When he asked Benny Hinn “what does God think of me with …my…so much wealth and achievements”. Benny’s answer among other things kept from us … or what we did not hear …was “you foolish man’.

  9. “T&T government must maintain good relations with whoever occupies the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, so we cannot be seen to be “taking sides” or interfering in our neighbour’s politics—which might be the perception should we grant political asylum to opposition activists.”(SHAH)

    This is a cowardly, immoral position to take in view of the fact that Elections in Venezuela under Maduro are not free and fair.

    Do we not have a moral responsibility to call out injustices, exploitation and brutal dictatorship?

    Do we not have a moral, global responsibility to show compassion to those in need?

  10. The new jobs in Trinidad will have a new logo..”Buying Scrap Iron…” and not “the textile boss”….dey going to own the land now…and beach front too

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