The image of National Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday attempting crowd control through a hand-held megaphone outside the Queen’s Park Oval venue for Venezuelan migrant registration itself illustrates how overwhelmed authorities are at the sheer number of migrants seeking to regularise their stay in this country.
With no known expertise in either crowd control or psychology, the minister presumably assumed a role unassigned to anyone else, and much in need, as the number of migrants swelled three days ahead of the closure of the registration exercise.
From registration centres in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Tobago, reports are that the number of migrants, rather than diminishing, is growing and desperation at the long wait to complete the process and collect their receipts of salvation is also growing. That was an eventuality, it seems, that was missed by the Government planners, otherwise crowd control plans would have been executed by relevant experts. Now that they know, this newspaper anticipates that the authorities will delegate responsibility to those experts who can ensure as smooth a process as possible.
All Venezuelan migrants in the country should be accounted for in the current registration exercise. Indeed, that accounting is the objective of the registration exercise so the country can know the full dimensions of what has to be addressed. The emerging numbers, likely already in excess of what Finance Minister Colm Imbert had guessed at the end of May, are a forceful case for the registration process to be extended beyond June 14, this Friday. If the process is stopped prematurely, Government would be self-defeating its own accounting objective.
Reports that Venezuelans are arriving here illegally in large numbers and at great risk to their lives in order to take advantage of the registration exercise is not a development that was difficult to predict or address. While Minister Young has spoken confidently about the locking down of the national borders, the extent of the lock-down is doubtful given the sparse seafaring resources in our national security arsenal.
True lock-down of national borders is required as a corollary to the extension of the registration period. In that exercise, the temporary outsourcing of vessels and other resources to patrol our coastlines, especially those southern points of entry familiar to residents and local government representatives in the various southern districts, is one approach to be considered.
The extension of the registration period, accompanied by effective patrols of national borders, appears to be the only means of meeting the necessary goal of Venezuelan migrant accounting. It will also help to ease the stresses of those women, children and men who have been exposed to sometimes unforgiving temperatures and other conditions for more than 24 hours in order to register.