Boat with 25 Venezuelans capsizes

Boat with 25 Venezuelans capsizes

A boat­load of Venezue­lan mi­grants is feared dead af­ter a ves­sel cap­sized on Thurs­day, plung­ing more than 25 peo­ple in­to the high seas. A news re­port from Delta Amacuro said the boat was bound for T&T.

Ce­dros coun­cil­lor Shankar Teelucks­ingh said mi­grants who live in a small vil­lage at Bil­wah Trace, Ce­dros, were mourn­ing the deaths of the miss­ing Venezue­lans.

Up to Fri­day, Venezuela’s Guardia Na­cional had re­cov­ered three bod­ies—a man, a woman and a child. Five peo­ple had been res­cued by a com­mer­cial Venezue­lan ves­sel that pro­vid­ed ser­vices in the Bo­ca de Ser­pi­ente sec­tor, in Delta wa­ters.

Venezuela’s Tane Tanae Asi Pa­so re­port said some peo­ple man­aged to swim a long dis­tance and had sur­vived the tragedy. They were lat­er res­cued by Venezue­lan ships that came to pro­vide sup­port in search-and-res­cue tasks.

Based on state­ments from sur­vivors, the re­port said oc­cu­pants had left Venezuela in search of a bet­ter life in T&T. They were ex­pect­ed to set­tle in La Hor­quet­ta, in the East, af­ter meet­ing with Trinida­di­an con­tacts. It is un­cer­tain where the il­le­gal boat and mi­grants would have docked had they made it to Trinidad.

A Venezue­lan na­tion­al Jose Car­dinez, who lives in San Juan, said the Venezue­lans had risked every­thing in search of a bet­ter life.

While the T&T Coast Guard re­mained mum about the mishap, Face­book was abuzz with re­ports of the in­ci­dent.

Jhon­car­los Vasquez Gon­za­lez wrote on his Face­book page, “To­day once again Deltanos broth­ers are vic­tims of the cru­el­ty of a group that ig­nores the suf­fer­ing of the Venezue­lan peo­ple, on­ly they are re­spon­si­ble for the se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion in our coun­try and that was pre­cise­ly what forced to our na­tion­als to flee this tragedy.

“To­day we lose the lives of moth­ers, young peo­ple and chil­dren, who could per­fect­ly stay in their coun­try to re­alise their dreams and ideals but who un­for­tu­nate­ly did not have that op­por­tu­ni­ty and saw in the neigh­bour­ing is­land of Trinidad a de­par­ture. I man­i­fest my deep re­gret for the loss­es that mourn Deltanos fam­i­lies. For all my sol­i­dar­i­ty I send them a big hug, it is time to de­mand an­swers, un­til when will we con­tin­ue to face trag­ic news.”

Mean­while, Maria Fer­nan­dez wrote, “Young chil­dren and moth­ers and fa­thers die in search of a bet­ter fu­ture and the on­ly thing they find is death by God.”

Vil­ma Es­per­an­za Cha­con Cordero wrote, “Mourn­ing in my soul over this ter­ri­ble news. GOD have mer­cy on those souls and strength to the fam­i­lies this mo­ment.”

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Mooni­lal on Sat­ur­day ques­tioned why mi­grants were con­tin­u­ing to en­ter T&T.

De­spite bil­lions of dol­lars be­ing spent on na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty, Mooni­lal said the Min­istry had failed to lock down the bor­ders.

He said this was why COVID-19 sta­tis­tics have con­tin­ued to in­crease.

“Now we have the dis­tress­ing news that the Brazil­ian vari­ant was now present in the com­mu­ni­ty,” Mooni­lal said.

“Gov­ern­ment has com­plete­ly mis­man­aged bor­der con­trol. They be­gan by think­ing that bor­der con­trol means clos­ing the air­port but that is not bor­der con­trol. That in­volves lock­ing down every sin­gle en­try and ex­it both le­gal and il­le­gal.”

Mooni­lal said he hoped that the T&T Coast Guard would work close­ly with the Venezue­lan au­thor­i­ties to save the miss­ing mi­grants.

“We pray that they are alive and can be res­cued safe­ly. This in­ci­dent speaks to a break­down in the man­age­ment of bor­ders, lack of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween T&T and the Venezue­lan au­thor­i­ties to po­lice and man the bor­ders and en­sure that il­le­gal im­mi­grants don’t get the op­por­tu­ni­ty to leave Venezuela and so eas­i­ly come to our shores.”

There was a sim­i­lar oc­cur­rence on De­cem­ber 7 last year, when a boat car­ry­ing 41 Venezue­lans cap­sized off Guiria and its oc­cu­pants drowned. The boat on­ly had the ca­pac­i­ty for eight peo­ple and had no life jack­et or nav­i­ga­tion equip­ment.

The over­loaded boat—car­ry­ing just over five times the amount it should have car­ried—was cit­ed as the main cause of the ship­wreck. This in­ci­dent oc­curred af­ter the ves­sel left Venezuela on De­cem­ber 6.

There were al­le­ga­tions that the boat was de­tained in Trinidad and re­turned to Venezuela. How­ev­er, the T&T Coast Guard said that it had not in­ter­cept­ed any boats from Guiria.

Fol­low­ing a probe, the Venezue­lan Gov­ern­ment stat­ed that the boat had been head­ing to T&T, but nev­er got close. Venezue­lan au­thor­i­ties which launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions stat­ed it was in­volved in a hu­man traf­fick­ing/smug­gling ring. Each of the 41 peo­ple had paid (US)$150 for the trip. The ves­sel’s own­er and the own­er of the farm from where pas­sen­gers left were both ar­rest­ed. Ten oth­ers were al­so sought.

Guardian Me­dia reached out to Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Fitzger­ald Hinds and Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer of the T&T Coast Guard Lieu­tenant Khadi­ja Lamy but calls, emails and What­sApp mes­sages went unan­swered.

91 il­le­gal ports

In an ex­clu­sive Guardian Me­dia re­port last year, 91 il­le­gal ports were iden­ti­fied around T&T. This was mapped out by the T&T Coast Guard.

An eight-month hu­man traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the Caribbean by Dr Jus­tine Pierre un­earthed an ex­pan­sive hu­man traf­fick­ing and smug­gling ring in­volv­ing se­nior law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in T&T who as­sist which en­try.

Venezue­lans pay as lit­tle as US$500 and as much as US$2,000 to get to Trinidad.

In the South­west­ern penin­su­la, mi­grants en­ter via il­le­gal ports at Ica­cos, Colum­bus Bay, Fullar­ton Beach, Gal­far Beach, Chatham Beach, Granville Beach, St Anns Beach, Point Co­co Beach and Iros For­est Beach.

Near the Gal­far vol­ca­noes, the mi­grants’ hide­out in the forests be­fore they are picked up.

There are al­so il­le­gal ports at Erin Beach, Pa­lo Seco, Los Iros, Mon Di­a­blo beach, Fan­ny Vil­lage Beach, Kings Wharf Oropouche Bay, Jumbie Bay. Mi­grants al­so con­tin­ue to come through the Gordineau Riv­er and have set up lit­tle set­tle­ments on the riv­er bank.

Source: Guardian T&T

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