Its understood that when the amnesty ends in February, illegal immigrants will be immediately detained and deported to their respective countries if they are unable to produce the relevant immigration documentation.
A release issued by the Ministry of National Security on October 13, says there are 110,012 illegal immigrants are living in T&T. The figure represents ten per cent of T&T’s 1.3 million population.
The illegal immigrants, the release said, are from the following 16 countries:
Guyana (25,884); Jamaica (19,500); Venezuela (10,574); St Vincent (9,606); Barbados (7,169); Grenada (6,947); Colombia (6,388); China (4,593); Philippines (4,437); St Lucia (4,391); India (3,651); Dominican Republic (2,256); Suriname (1,944); Cuba (1,434); Nigeria (1,071); and Bangladesh (167).
The Sunday Express quoted the Minister of National Security Gary Griffith as saying “Going forward, we are looking at the possibility of giving illegal immigrants a three-month grace period to get regularised with the necessary documentation.”
According to Griffith “The illegal immigrants will be given an application to justify that they are of value to the country and not a liability to the public or a national security threat. They must be value to the country because unemployment leads to a life of crime.”
Griffith said employers will also be given an opportunity to vouch for illegal immigrants working for them who may be deemed undesirable.
“This is not a witch hunt. If some illegal immigrants are deemed undesirable, which is considered a national security threat, once they have employers who can vouch for them showing that they add value to an establishment, strong consideration will be given to allow them to stay in T&T,” Griffith said.
Advising the illegal immigrants to grasp the amnesty, Griffith warned that excuses would not be accepted.
“After the three-month period, I am going to start cleaning house because this situation has gone on for far too long. At this point, they are all breaking the law because they are in T&T illegally.
“It is either they make use of the three-month grace period or leave T&T. We are not going on a witch-hunt in every community or business; we are giving them the opportunity to come forward and get regularised.
“Whether the illegal immigrants are housekeepers or security personnel, they all need to get proper documentation to be allowed to stay in T&T or else they will be deported.”
Griffith said he is forced to implement the amnesty because of security intelligence he received. He said between 2003 and 2004, there was an influx of illegal immigrants into T&T.
“I don’t know if it is coincidental, or if it is a serious relationship, but that is the main period when we started seeing an escalation in serious crimes in T&T.
“There may be a relationship between illegal immigrants and the escalating crime situation. We have security intelligence that shows illegal immigrants have been involved in illegal activities and other gang-related activities.
“It is no longer a case of illegal immigrants coming to T&T to work only. Some of these illegal immigrants are actually coming to T&T to become professional criminals,” Griffith said.
Griffith, however, acknowledged some of the illegal immigrants came to T&T to seek a better life.
“I also have knowledge that there are many illegal immigrants who have some value to the society.
“Some of them are being taken advantage of by their employers who have refused to pay the necessary taxes because they are aware of their illegal status.
“These individuals are here illegally and they don’t have the capability to go to a union or to protest. Sometimes they are short-paid their wages, or receive none at all.
“It is a very untidy situation. In addition, millions of dollars are being lost in revenue because no taxes are being paid. It is time to get control of the situation,” Griffith said.
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