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the ordeal of 16 children between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago

“We’re coming to Trinidad! We arrive ! ” In the frail boat, women and children protect themselves from the spray. Wrapped in linens, a baby is tight against a chest. A little boy with wet hair hangs in the center of the boat. In a hazy horizon, we can see the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. For these thirty migrants, including sixteen children, it is the provisional end, this Tuesday, November 24, of an ordeal lasting several days between Venezuela and the Caribbean archipelago.

The fate of these young migrants throws a harsh light on the tragedy experienced by the 5 million Venezuelans who have left their country in recent years, fleeing famine and misery. About 40,000 of them emigrated to Trinidad and Tobago, a small island country of 1.3 million people located just 15 km east of Venezuela, and whose Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, is a unwavering ally of President Nicolas Maduro.

For the small group of migrants, everything had started a week earlier, on November 17. Left Venezuela on a fishing boat, they had landed a first time on a beach in the south of the island of Trinidad, and were immediately arrested by the police. An appeal had been lodged to prevent their deportation – especially since the parents of some children were legal residents on the island. But without waiting for the court’s decision, the Trinidadian authorities decided, on November 22, to send back to their country sixteen minors, including a four-month-old baby, and a dozen women, not hesitating, for that, to separate the children of their families.

“We put them in two small trawlers without identification, without a guide, without a life jacket, with barely any food, and they were thus expelled, babies included, on the open sea, abandoned to the grace of God! “, indignant David Smolansky, Organization of American States (OAS) Commissioner for the Venezuelan Migrant and Refugee Crisis.

Left to their fate on the high seas

Escorted by the island authorities until they left Trinidadian waters, the migrants were then left to fend for themselves on the high seas. For almost 48 hours, their families remained without news. Alerted, international organizations gave their voice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its “Concern” and urged Trinidad and Tobago to “Respect the principle of non-refoulement”.

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