Archbishop Jason Gordon met with Miriam Aertker, the head of the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, TT office on July 8 at Archbishop’s House, Port of Spain.
He told the Catholic News the meeting was “very productive” and covered a wide range of issues concerning migrants and refugees in Trinidad and Tobago and the question, “How do we care for those in TT and this time?”. Archbishop Gordon said education was discussed and a collaboration to hire migrant assistant teachers to be in schools that accept migrant children. “They will also teach Spanish to all the children. This will make Spanish a second language in the school”.
Archbishop Gordon said they also spoke of TT being a portal to Caricom (Caribbean Community) asking other Caribbean nations to share the burden of the migrants through relocation. Existing partnerships were reviewed and they looked at some new areas of collaboration.
In her Twitter post on the meeting Aertker said, “We both reaffirmed our commitment to helping refugees and other displaced people. A variety of topics were discussed including the challenges faced by displaced people to access services: health care, education, food and livelihoods, as well as possible solutions. “Together, we hope to advocate for inclusion within host communities.”
Accompanying Aertker was Heidi Hunter, Information Management Officer and Amanda Solano Badilla, Protection Officer. Also, present was Leela Ramdeen, Episcopal Delegate/Chair Catholic Commission for Social Justice & the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) and Darrion Narine, AMMR Programme Coordinator.
Ramdeen said an additional issue discussed related to shelter for migrants and refugees. “We asked UNHCR to consider assisting the Archdiocese in providing shelter for migrants and refugees in need of shelter. No decision was arrived at, but they now have this request on their agenda.”
Narine gave a presentation on the programmes offered by the AMMR. These include the free legal aid clinic to members of the public and marginalised, child-friendly spaces—La Romain, Carapichaima, Mon Diablo, The University of the West Indies St Augustine, Mayaro, Penal and other possible future locations. He touched on the roaming health fair across the country catering to the basic health needs of the marginalised, and an advocate programme to be established. Persons are being trained in the principles of social justice and developing their capacity as social justice advocates. Aerkter was told of the 26 parish ministries for migrants and refugees operating across the Archdiocese and the services they provided such as food distribution, shelter and employment assistance