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TRINIDAD | Foreign detainees languish in T&T jail, govts won't pay transport bill

Featured The Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo, the home away from home for dozens of foreign nationals whose native governments are unwilling to foot the bill to have them deported. FILE PHOTO The Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo, the home away from home for dozens of foreign nationals whose native governments are unwilling to foot the bill to have them deported. FILE PHOTO
Persons who enter Trinidad and Tobago ilegally, or have overstayed their time, seem destined to languish in jail if caught, as the TT government and their home nations are less than willing to pay the extremely high cost of transportation to their homeland.

A story in the Trinidad and Tobago Sunday Newsday says "several foreign national who have completed custodial sentences for entering this country illegally or overstaying their time, are languishing behind bars at the Aripo Detention Centre" as nobody to foot the extremely high cost to deport them back to their homeland.

The Newsday special investigation says several dozen foreign 'prisoners' are at this detention centre, and "the cost to send one foreigner, especially those living in countries on the African continent on the other side of the world, is upwards of $100,000.

As a result, the detainees who are now in limbo, do not know what is in store for them and if they will ever be reunited with loved ones back home. Sunday Newsday says those most affected and who make up the largest contingent at the Aripo Detention Centre are from African nations such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana.

According to Newsday,  Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon has described the situation as worrying and frustrating since he has been making every effort to have these detainees sent home.  However, He said most African countries are not willing to spend money to have their countrymen returned home.

Dillon said T&T could no longer sustain the over $100,000 to return a detainee to any of the African countries as “We just cannot afford this. We have had to make serious cuts and our focus is bringing crime down and restoring calm to our own citizens affected by crime.”

Dillon told Newsday he was cognizant of the detainees’ mental suffering in being separated from loved ones including wives and children for months and even years. We have asked that their loved ones make efforts to raise the funds to have them returned home. But at the same time we are trying other avenues to assist these detainees,” Dillon said.

Dillon said what the government is seeking to do, is to ensure that the detainees are kept safe and relatively comfortable while efforts continue to be made to have them deported back to their homeland. There are about six Venezuelans at the Aripo Detention Centre. Other detainees hail from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, China and several Caribbean countries.

Dillon last week toured the detention centre and was satisfied with the upgrade work. Dillon said some of the detainees wept as they spoke to him and said they have families whom they have not seen in months. Some expressed bitterness on being told their home government did not want to spend money to bring them back home.

On June 9, then Ag Minister of National Security Dennis Moses revealed in Parliament that there are 15,042 people living and working illegally in TT. He said the government has granted permanent residency to 30,200 people up to May last year.

However, between January 1 and May 1, Moses said, there were 15,042 illegals comprising people from Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, China, 65 Guyana, 39 Nigeria and several Caribbean islands including Jamaica.

Head of the Emancipation Support Committee Khafra Kambon told Sunday Newsday, “it is expensive to send detainees back to Africa because you have to send two officers for every one detainee. So when you factor in that you are paying airline tickets for three people you can understand how high the cost is.

Kambon said the government needs to adopt a discriminating approach as to which illegal immigrant will be sent home and which can be assimilated into TT society especially owing to the fact that many illegal immigrants end up in relationships with locals and start a family.

“You have families here who are suffering because their loved one is locked up for being an undocumented person. These people can be processed and receive legal status so as to ease the burden on the state of providing for so many people being kept at the detention centre,” Kambon said.

He suggested there should be a case-by-case assessment of the detainees and said that from his investigations, some of the detainees from African countries have been at the detention centre in Aripo for as long as four years.

  • Countries: Trinidad_Tobago