On December 15, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) expressed their deep concern over the deaths of Venezuelan adults and children en route to the small Caribbean twin island nation Trinidad and Tobago. The bodies were found in Guiria, a Venezuelan coastal town 70 kilometers from the nearest coast of Trinidad and Tobago. The 8-person boat was dangerously overloaded with 41 Venezuelans who did not have life jackets or navigation equipment. Venezuela officials announced that the unfortunate event was not the first of its kind. An estimated 100 people were missing in 2018/2019, finding that 118 human trafficking cases have been recorded since 2017. Unofficially, these numbers could be much higher.
Over the past five years, due to the ongoing economic crisis in Venezuela, millions of Venezuelans have fled their homes, mainly to other Spanish-speaking countries that either share land borders with Venezuela or have sea borders such as Trinidad and Tobago.
Contemporary history shows that the sea voyage of irregular migration is not free of risk worldwide. The media regularly report on the tragedies of experiments in the eastern region of the Mediterranean and on the North African coasts. For the Venezuelan case, such stories, i. H. Tragedies in connection with the crossing from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago, unique.
In April 2019, the government of Trinidad and Tobago imposed a registration system for Venezuelan migrants as a large influx of Venezuelans arrived via various beaches. Registration allowed them a year-long settlement that allowed them to work in the country. At the end of the registration period, around 16,500 Venezuelans were allowed to live in the country for one year, which was extended for a further six months until the end of 2020. The government recently announced that registered Venezuelans would have an additional six months in the country where they will have to re-register. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has also introduced visa restrictions for Venezuelan passports since June 2019.
Despite its policies, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has been criticized by UN bodies for not doing enough other than mistreating the Venezuelans. UN Human Rights Bureau spokeswoman Liz Throssell added that “all refugees and migrants, regardless of their status, have the right to respect and protection of their human rights.”
At the international level, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley often reacts to outside pressure to accept Venezuelans as refugees. He recently stated that “Trinidad and Tobago is currently under the recent attack by nameless, faceless people with innocent children to force its country to accept their understanding of” refugee status and international treaty “where a small island nation of 1.3 Millions of people are alive People must be expected to keep open borders with a neighbor of 34 million people even during a pandemic, and this is not a matter for the OAS [Organization of American States] but for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. “
The declaration explains how the problems and challenges in Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela go beyond the influx of irregular economic migrants looking for work on the small state island: It addresses the ongoing polarization of regional and international politics in relation to the Nicolás-Maduro Regime.
In December 2020, Trinidad and Tobago suspended their participation in the OAS vote after Juan Guaidó’s OAS representative, who was not recognized by the Trinidad and Tobago government, mistakenly blamed the Caribbean island for the drowning of Venezuelans. This is in line with Guaidó’s November 2020 allegation that Trinidad and Tobago subjected Venezuelans to “cruel treatment”.
The basis for Trinidad and Tobago’s policy towards Venezuela
A recent study by the University of the West Indies found that the neutralism adopted by the governments of Trinidad and Tobago since the country’s independence in 1962 is not a tactical foreign policy choice but a strategy. Trinidad and Tobago recognize its limited material power and sensitive geographical location. It is therefore an important motivating factor when formulating the country’s policy to develop a foreign policy that aims to maintain the status quo of the “strategy of neutralism” and not be against any state. This also explains Trinidad and Tobago’s refusal to join US efforts to force President Maduro out of office.
On the material resource side, Trinidad and Tobago’s position is not unfounded. The economy of this 1.3 million country is in a challenging time. The migrant quota per citizen is noticeably high. Dr. Rowley said his country had more Venezuelans fleeing “per square kilometer, per capita” than any other nation. The ratio of registered Venezuelan migrants to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago is 1.3%; According to some estimates before the registration process started, the rate in Trinidad and Tobago was 3.1% in 2019. In Colombia, the registered migrant-to-citizen rate was 1.5% and the unregistered 2% in 2020. In Brazil, this rate reached 0.1% in 2019 and in Peru, which claimed to have the highest rate, it will be at the beginning Recorded at 2.5% in 2020. This rate is calculated by dividing the number of migrants (registered or unregistered, or a combination of both) by the number of resident citizens of each state.
Security concerns aside, governments are often very concerned about the impact on their economies of such a rapid and massive influx of irregular migrants. The ability of each state to absorb the economic impact depends on many factors. For simplicity, consider the size of the economy as an independent variable, where gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods and services produced annually by a given state, is a measure of the size of a country’s overall economy. The nominal GDP of Trinidad and Tobago in 2020 is 22.7 billion US dollars, the GDP of Colombia 265 billion US dollars (11.7 times that of Trinidad and Tobago), the Peruvian GDP 196 billion US dollars (8, 7x Trinidad and Tobago) and Brazil’s GDP $ 1,364 billion (60 times Trinidad and Tobago). In terms of land, the smallest of these South American states, i. H. Columbia, a land of 1,139,910 km² approximately 223 times the size of Trinidad and Tobago.
Small states are less able to cope with economic challenges, have limited human and institutional capacities and “tend to be disproportionately affected by global economic crises”. Trinidad and Tobago have recorded negative GDP growth since 2016.
On a social level, despite a few isolated cases, it is still early to assess the social impact of the influx of irregular Venezuelan migrants into Trinidad and Tobago. This is a process that takes time and is left to scientists to evaluate. Even with some crimes committed by Venezuelans on the island, there are no published studies suggesting widespread anti-immigration sentiment. It is early days to apply wage competition theory and / or sociological theories to the labor market to study possible social and other impacts.
Despite some of the early normative positions of some people on the reception of Venezuelans, there are now palpable waves of negative comments on them from members of the public on social media, especially when Venezuelans living on the twin islands criticize the government’s policy of deporting migrants.
The policy decision style
In response to the growing situation in Venezuela, the heads of state and government of Trinidad and Tobago made a one-off decision at the beginning, for example with the registration process. This was not enough, as the political and economic situation in the neighboring Latin state leads to a certain political polarization in the region. This prompted the government to make a series of successive interactive foreign policy decisions such as: Determine his position on the US efforts against President Maduro, the question of OAS representation, the expansion of the legal status of documented migrants, etc. The political decisions suggest that the conditional leadership of Trinidad and Tobago has been tried under many restrictions to formulate a rational policy to achieve relatives profits.
Faced with this unique challenge, Trinidad and Tobago have had to reinvent the wheel of how to tackle the phenomenon of the influx of irregular migrants on a large scale. Therefore, the discourses at the local level in particular reflected typical ideal, sometimes utopian, views versus the views of classical realists. In addition, it became costly and difficult for policymakers to justify their decision to the public as there was no transformative foreign policy decision-making system, as shown in the above study. The absence of the transformation model in the political decision-making process increases the pressure on the heads of state and government to pursue the national interest under many objective and subjective conditions. In addition, with a conditional and situational style of leadership, as is typical in Trinidad and Tobago, the state does not seem to be adequately equipped (knowledge) to address the phenomenon.
In dealing with the situation of irregular migration from Venezuela, the government of Trinidad and Tobago needs to go beyond its norms in formulating and implementing policies. These standards are characterized by a situation analysis based on the environmental conditions, which may be insufficient or inefficient. Investments must be made in developing pre-adjustment mechanisms for regional crises. effective collection and filtering of information; Assessment of existing and previous foreign policy results and, above all, inclusion of competencies from different disciplines in the assessment of the proposed policy.
Further reading on E-International Relations