US ready to talk after T&T's criticism

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The United States Government says it looks forward to working with Trinidad and Tobago after Port of Spain reacted angrily to a report by the US State Department that placed the oil-rich twin-island republic among several Caribbean countries not in compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons (TIP).

Of the Caribbean countries listed in the “2019 Trafficking in Persons Report,” only The Bahamas and Guyana “fully” met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, a US State Department report said last weekend.

The report said Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago had been placed on Tier 2.

But Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at a ceremony here on the weekend, wondered whether or not the country that gave Port of Spain a failing grade was doing much better with its own migration and TIP situation.

“Well, if I was marking their paper what would I give them? They have the same problem we have – thousands of migrants rushing your border wanting to come into your country because they see a greener grass on your side than on their side. That is the number one political issue in America,” Rowley said.

“Children are dying on the border, some of them in cages, hundreds of people in a room that is built for 10, the temperature is 41 degrees and, of course, they have a bigger military, they have a bigger security system, they have an army, a navy, an air force and they got a bigger treasury than Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, asking “how have they handled their situation better than ours?”

In a brief statement, the US Embassy, while it did not directly respond to Rowley, made mention of an earlier statement issued by National Security Minister Stuart Young, saying “we appreciate the minister of national security's balanced approach to the issues raised in the TIP report and look forward to working with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to continue fighting this crime against universal human rights”.

The two-paragraph statement added that the “2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report covers the period up to March 2019,” and that “the report notes progress made by Trinidad and Tobago in multiple areas while acknowledging how Trinidad and Tobago, and many other countries, can continue taking steps to end the scourge of modern day slavery”.

The report had been critical of Trinidad and Tobago's dealing with Venezuelans fleeing their homeland where opposition forces backed by Washington are seeking to, remove President Nicolas Maduro from office.

Washington said Port of Spain “did not adequately screen migrants, asylum seekers, or refugees for trafficking indicators, including among Venezuelans.

“The government decreased the amount of funding for victim services and did not provide adequate victim care in some cases,” the report added.

But Rowley said that Trinidad and Tobago had maintained an open border with Venezuela until last Monday when the country initiated its registration programme with 15,000 Venezuelans registered under the programme.

“A little Caribbean nation like Trinidad and Tobago, we have 15,000 Venezuelans authorised now to be in our borders and we treat them like human beings within Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.

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