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Glenn mixing up refugees and deportees

Nafeesa:

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Up to 2010 there were more than 100 persons from the Middle East and other countries seeking refugee status in this country, says chairman of the San Juan/Laventille regional corporation Nafeesa Mohammed.

Mohammed, during the previous People's National Movement (PNM) administration, worked as a legal consultant to the Office of the Attorney General.

She said policy documents with respect to refugees were in the works but seem to now be shelved by the current administration.

In his contribution to the 2012-2013 budget debate, Minister of the People Glenn Ramadharsingh said there was an influx of persons coming into this country from other parts of the world where there is civil unrest.

"Do we know that we have deportees coming in here at four o'clock in the morning...on cargo planes sometimes. Do you know that these people are coming back from Baghdad (in Iraq) and parts of the world where there are wars raging and have the capacity to build bombs and destroy life and limb?" said Ramadharsingh.

"And that's why the Ministry is supporting our deportee support programme so that we can strengthen the efforts of people like Wayne Chance and Vision on a Mission...people coming in with knowledge of how to run organised crime and how to become Mafia bosses. And so this work is important," he added.

Ramadharsingh said an action committee was created to deal with this issue.

Mohammed told the Express by phone that Ramadharsingh seemed to have his facts mixed up with respect to deportees and refugees.

"He's mixing up some very significant descriptions of migrants that we in our country...we have a situation involving refugees, a refugee is very different from a deportee," she said.

She noted that citizens of this country are deported from the United States when they are convicted of a criminal offence.

Mohammed noted that Chance's programme is geared towards helping deportees get back on their feet.

She recalled that in 2004, a man came to this country without documentation from Iraq seeking asylum.

"You don't return a person who is seeking asylum, there are human rights issues involved," she said.

The man, she said, made an appeal to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Washington, DC, and for a number of years a team worked with the Commission to help this man who spent some three to four years in Trinidad before he settled in New Zealand.

Mohammed said just before the PNM demitted office, she was part of a task force that was involved in creating policy to inform legislation as it deals with refugees and also the trafficking of persons.

"Some years ago there were persons from Africa seeking asylum here, the numbers increased over the years. In 2001 when the UNC was in Government, I believe there was one or two...by 2004 there were 30 or 40 and by 2010 there were over 100 persons seeking asylum, which meant we needed to put something in place," said Mohammed.

Trinidad and Tobago, she said, is signatory to an international convention with respect to refugees.

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