[www.inewsguyana.com] – Trinidad Express – Oil- and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago remains a land of opportunity and currently serves as a haven for 110,012 illegal immigrants. “You are talking about over ten per cent of your adult population,” National Security Minister Gary Griffith said following the National Security Ministry’s release of the “alarming statistics” yesterday.
Asked if there had been an increase in the number of illegal immigrants in recent years, Griffith said the problem did not start overnight.
“It is just that I am opening this Pandora’s box. And I intend to put an end to it. It is totally unacceptable,” he said.
This disturbingly high number of illegal immigrants comes primarily from 16 countries, of which only six are members of Caricom. The highest number of illegal immigrants comes from Guyana—25,884; followed by Jamaica.
There are 19,500 Jamaicans living here illegally, while Venezuela has 10,574 illegal immigrants residing here. Next in line are people from St Vincent—9,606; Barbadians—7,169; Grenadians—6,947; Colombians—6,388; Chinese—4,593; Filipinos—4,437; St Lucians—4,391; Indians—3,651; Dominican Republic—2,256; Surinamese—1,944; Cubans—1,434; Nigerians—1,071; and Bangladeshis—167.
Griffith said he was not on a “witch hunt”.
But, he said he had met a very “untidy situation” and he intended to deal with all aspects of national security.
He said once Immigration officials are able to locate people, they are deported back to their country.
He said in such instances this country had to provide for the costs associated with deportation. “For example, for the 11 Africans we have to deport, we have pay the airfare plus Special Branch personnel to accompany them. It is going to cost us over $2 million to send back those Africans over the next two weeks,” he said, adding the State had to also charter an aircraft.
He said, though, many of the illegal immigrants “stay under the radar”, and sometimes information is brought to the Immigration Department which facilitates the location of these people.
However, he also noted many Trinidadians hire illegal immigrants “and they abuse the situation because they don’t pay (National Insurance), taxes, and sometimes pay them below the minimum wage”. He said some of them worked in the security industry. Griffith said some were employed in the sex industry.
He said he wanted to reject statements coming from the Jamaican opposition that it was a common practice for many people to overstay their time in different Caricom countries. “Because it is normal does not make it legal,” he said. “When these people are here illegally, they are sometimes unemployed and they turn to a life of crime and this could play a very big part in criminal activities in a country. “These individuals also consume our health facilities, education, because there is free access to all, as well as housing and employment opportunities.
“I am not saying that we intend to throw everyone out. Many of them have settled here and may be of value to Trinidad and Tobago, but they need to be regularised and registered. If not, they can be abused by their employers and taken advantage of by receiving ridiculously low wages,” he said. Sources told the Express yesterday the Jamaican influence on the gang activity was being looked at.
Citing the recent case of Jamaican Tremin Thomas, who was killed along with gang leader Dillon “Bandy” Skeete last month, the source said there was infiltration into the gangs by some of these illegal immigrants.
People who have overstayed their time in Trinidad and Tobago and have not yet departed:
• Bangladeshis: 167
• Barbadians: 7,169
• Chinese: 4,593
• Colombians: 6,388
• Dominican Republic: 2,256
• Cubans: 1,434
• Grenadians: 6,947
• Guyanese: 25,884
• Indians: 3,651
• Nigerians: 1,071
• Filipinos: 4,437
• St Lucians: 4,391
• St Vincent: 9,606
• Suriname: 1,944
• Venezuelans: 10,574