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The Ripple Effect of ‘Vene’ Labour

By the time you read this, the high-profile certification or registration process for Venezuelan migrants would have been in effect for about two days. The question remains whether the two-week period is time enough to get it done. We must wait and see.

This Venezuelan immigrant crisis is really getting to me. Looking through a daily newspaper last week I saw two headlines on the same page—one talking about the new registration or certification process for Venezuelan migrants legally or illegally, giving them the opportunity to live and work here for one year, and right next to that story a magistrate is placing fines on migrants who have come here illegally.

Something is radically wrong here. I tried to separate the two stories but found it very difficult to do so. If you are going to open a registry for these migrants allowing to live and work here for a year, how come we are still prosecuting migrants who are here illegally?

Listening to the Prime Minister’s explanation on the one hand and that of the National Security minister on the other has made me even more confused. Somehow their stories are not jiving. They might be saying the same thing but certainly in a different way.

With the certification the Venezuelans would be entitled to work, at least for one year—to compete for jobs that locals feel should belong to them. Are we ready for the employment backlash? And as we know some of our businessmen and homeowners may go the exploitation route where wages and salaries are concerned.

The migrant’s work ethic is different to that of the Trinidadian worker. What will happen when the Venezuelans get the jobs and the locals are left out? Would this mean unrest in the labour market?

Whether the certification process would prove successful or not is not known. There are several situations which remain to be fully ventilated, before a realistic judgement can be made.

CARICOM as a body should have done what St Lucia did almost a year ago. Venezuelans must have visas to enter that country. Should there have been such a coordinated policy, it would have been easier to monitor the borders. We understand that it would be more difficult for Trinidad and Tobago but if the will is there it could be done.

Be that as it may, it seems that the Churches are doing more for the migrants than our lawful government agencies. The Living Water Community has extended help, and continues to do so, in a humanitarian way, to these people obviously in want.

The Presbyterian Church has extended its hand of help and even desires to start Spanish classes to lower the language barrier to make things much easier. Other religions which are helping in diverse ways include the Hindus and the Muslims.

Traditionally, Trinbagonians are known for their generosity and humaneness, that is why the Siparia Regional Corporation has actually set up an accommodating ‘Tent City’ at Irving Park for the dozens of migrants who have no where to lay their heads and many who have nothing to eat. Our generosity shows when all kinds of people show up with baskets of food and drink.

So, for the first time this country is faced with a refugee problem akin to what we hear and read about in other countries around the world. How we are able to handle the situation remains to be seen.