The serious humanitarian crisis caused by Nicolás Maduro’s de facto regime has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee the massive human rights violations and crimes against humanity that are committed daily in the country. However, their desperation forces many to leave the country in improvised ways that seriously endanger their lives. This is the case of Venezuelans who desperately flee to Trinidad and Tobago in dangerous boats, prone to sinking and lose their lives in the middle of the sea.
In addition to the situation described above, if Venezuelan migrants and refugees manage to survive this dangerous journey and disembark in Trinidad and Tobago, they are also subject to the anxiety of being immersed in judicial processes as a consequence of their irregular arrival or stay in that country. There have been various complaints that these processes have been carried out without the minimum judicial guarantees and people have been collectively deported to Venezuela.
Despite the above, a new unfortunate and painful event occurred on December 12th, 2020, when the Venezuelan Coast Guard found the lifeless bodies of 19 Venezuelans, including women and children, who had been missing for days in a highly dangerous boat. They were found off the shores of the port of Güiria, on the Paria Peninsula.
The Commissioner of the General Secretary of the Organization of American States for the crisis of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, David Smolansky, received a complaint from his relatives that the ‘peñero’ (open fishing boat) sailed on December 6th from Güiria to Trinidad. However, once they arrived in Trinidad, they were returned by the Trinidadian government in these dangerous conditions, without guaranteeing the right to request asylum and violating the principle of non-refoulement. As a consequence, and very unfortunately, their bodies were found floating in the middle of the sea yesterday.
The Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights categorically rejects this ‘hot return’ (immidiate) of Venezuelans, denying them the right to request asylum. In addition, it highlights that this is not a new event, but rather constitutes a repeated practice of the Trinidadian government of collectively deporting Venezuelans putting their lives at risk in the middle of the sea, as happened at the end of November with the deportation of 16 children and Venezuelan girls, some not accompanied by their parents.
In addition to the above, this fact flagrantly violates the principle of non-refoulement, which is a principle of ‘jus cogens’ that obliges States not to return people to a country where their lives and personal integrity are in danger, such as the case of Venezuela, a country where crimes against humanity and massive human rights violations are committed and immersed in a serious humanitarian crisis.
Likewise, the Trinidadian government acts against the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which in its Resolution 1/20 on Pandemic and Human Rights in the Americas recommended that States refrain from using immigration detention mechanisms and other measures such as deportation or collective expulsion that increase the risks of spreading the disease and increase the situation of vulnerability of people in human mobility.
It is because of the above that the Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights and Attention to Victims: rejects and condemns the return of 19 Venezuelans by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to Venezuela in highly dangerous and inhumane conditions; regrets the death of these Venezuelans, including women and children, sending its sincere condolences to their families and friends; and demands that the Trinidadian government stop these violations of the human rights of Venezuelan refugees.
HUMBERTO PRADO SIFONTES
Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights and Attention to Victims