THE reactions of some citizens to the invitation for desperate Dominicans to seek refuge in Trinidad and Tobago temporarily, has disappointed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Rowley appealed to people “not see race in everything we do in Trinidad and Tobago”.
A Thursday's post-Cabinet media briefing, the Prime Minister asked Trinidadians to open their homes to displaced Dominicans as part of its humanitarian effort to help the devastated island Dominica.
The island was so badly damaged that it's prime minister wept on Thursday as he spoke about the deaths and damage while appealing for international help.
On TV6's Morning Edition show on Friday, Rowley said he was disappointed that some were saying that Dominicans accepting temporary refuge in T&T, was a means of the PNM secure votes in upcoming elections.
He said he would not dignify that claim with a response.
When asked if he expects that political backlash over his decision to ease immigration restrictions and allow Dominicans into the country, Rowley said: “no I don't. It is my view and I believe genuinely that the vast majority of people in T&T are decent and caring people. And from that standpoint I don't expect that, that would cause any political calamity for me and the PNM.”
Rowley said the decision is a response to a specific natural disaster for a specific period of time and for Dominicans, “to return from whence they came.”
The Prime Minister said should people arrive into the country without a place to stay, under the United Nations charter, would then become wards of the State.
“There is a United Nations charter where we are signatories where such person can be viewed as a refugee and you are duty-bound not to turn them back. They will become a ward of the State…if Dominican refugees come here in any significant number we in Trinidad and Tobago have the ability to treat with it because it would be a situation we had not planned for before, the circumstances would require we put our best food forward. But I don't expect an overwhelming number of people to do that,” said Rowley.
He said that this country does not know when a disaster like this can occur when the people would need such kind of help in which Trinidad and Tobago is providing, “and we don't know the day in which something like this would happen to us. And I hope on such as day that we don't expect the rest of the world, particular our brothers and sisters nearby to take that position as those who would be able to have everything for themselves and not be able to share with the destitute.”
When asked whether bringing Dominicans into the country would cost the State money to provide for Dominicans, the Prime Minister said that once there is a refugee situation the State will have to help.
The Prime Minister also indicated that Fatima Old Boys Association has given the assurance that they will provide schooling for at least 30 children from those coming with children.