THE PRIME MINISTER, in a statement on Wednesday morning, claimed the Organisation of American States and US President Donald Trump have declared war on Trinidad and Tobago for failing to join efforts to force “a violent regime change in Venezuela.”
In a post on the official Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Minister at 7 am on Wednesday, Dr Rowley blamed the OAS and its president Luis Almargo for “almost singlehandedly” “triggering and fuelling the current Venezuelan” migrant crisis in TT.
The message, couched in unusually undiplomatic language, was also sent as a media release.
The PM wrote: “Trinidad and Tobago is currently under the latest assault, using nameless, faceless people armed with innocent children, to try and force us to accept their understanding of ‘refugee status and international treaty’ where a little island nation of 1.3 million people must be expected to maintain open borders to a next-door neighbour of 34 million people even during a pandemic.
“This is a matter, not for the OAS but for the people of TT.”
Rowley pointed out that TT’s borders were closed to nationals and non-nationals on March 22 as one of the more stringent measures to limit this country’s exposure to new cases of covid19 and the national security agencies “would resist all efforts by others who are hell-bent on forcing open our borders through illegal immigration.”
His public comments follow the refusal to accept a small group of Venezuelans, including 15 children, on November 17, followed by the Coast Guard’s escorting them back to Venezuelan waters in the Gulf of Paria.
The group returned to Los Iros, Erin on Tuesday while Minister of National Security Stuart Young was hosting a media briefing to defend that decision. They were arrested again.
The incident involving the children has sparked international outrage over the treatment of children and made international news.
Rowley said if left unchecked under the rubric of humanitarian interpretation, illegal immigrants “will effectively prise open our borders to every economic migrant, gun runner, drug dealer, human trafficker and South American gang leader/members. All they will be required to do is make the seven-mile boat trip and claim to be ‘refugees.'”
“We staunchly support the work of the United Nations but this threat and the persistent disregard for the outstanding humanitarian efforts extended by the people of TT, do not conform with the spirit and purpose of the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency).”
Rowley appeared to suggest TT had done all it could. “It is our little island nation which facilitated the registration of 16,000 Venezuelan migrants and even as we ourselves are struggling to cope with our own difficulties we have afforded them comfort, aid and opportunity,” the statement said.
If after all of that “our nation’s image is to be tarnished through the facilitation of illegal penetration or our borders then certainly, that will be the unkindest cut of all.”
But the PM called on the people of TT to continue to be humane and caring to Venezuelan migrants as “we have demonstrated that we are” and not demonise them.