Port of Spain, Trinidad (CMC) — Trinidad and Tobago National Security Minister Gary Griffith has extended an invitation to Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister AJ Nicholson to visit Port of Spain for talks on immigration issues between the two countries.
Griffith has also extended the invitation to the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Edmund Bartlett, who earlier this week described Griffith’s statement regarding the deportation of 13 Jamaicans last month as “hostile and disrespectful and merits the strongest response from our government”.
Nicholson had also urged Griffith to “refrain from continuing to muddy the integration waters” adding “the Trinidad and Tobago foreign minister has advised that he is to receive a written report relating to how the recent complaining 13 were treated at Piarco, pending their return to Jamaica”.
In extending the invitation to the Jamaican politicians to visit the oil-rich twin island Republic, Griffith said it is ‘aimed at arriving at amicable resolution in the best interest of both countries and all their citizens at the earliest possible opportunity”.
He said the statement that he was “‘attempting to muddy integration waters by ensuring that the rule of law is applied to all persons who have demonstrated a reasonable breach of T&T’s immigration guidelines begs the question as to whether such integration is pegged on member territories conveniently breaching their own internal rules of law to accommodate other member territories.
“As National Security Minister, I will not expect any of my regional counterparts to assume any such posture that has the potential to impugn their sovereign territory and national safety and security.” Griffith said, noting that the longstanding immigration issue “should be treated in a responsible and non-emotive manner by governments, without the unwarranted and personalised condemnation of neighbouring CARICOM partners.
“Full clarity must be sought in all matters before pronouncements are made. Statements were made by the Jamaican officials, based solely on the accounts received from the persons who were legally refused entry on very specific grounds, whereas when the issue is being clarified by the relevant Minister of National Security, it is seen as ‘unacceptable,’” Griffith added.
Last week, Griffith said there were an estimated 19,000 illegal Jamaicans here and that “these people are dependent on State resources such as education and health care, may be employed and are not subject to taxes, which amounts to a loss of revenue of over $1 billion (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) per annum”.
In another statement, Griffith said Trinidad and Tobago is now the home for an estimated 110,012 illegal immigrants, noting that the figure was “over 10 per cent of your adult population”.
According to figures released by the Trinidad Ministry of National Security, Guyana has the highest number of illegal immigrants, totalling 25,884; followed by Jamaica.
There are 10,574 illegal immigrants from Venezuela residing in Trinidad, followed by St Vincent and the Grenadines — 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.
Griffith said while he was not on a “witch hunt” once Immigration officials are able to locate illegal migrants, they will be deported.
“I am not saying that we intend to throw everyone out. Many of them have settled here and may be of value to Trinidad and Tobago, but they need to be regula¬rised and registered. If not, they can be abused by their employers and taken advantage of by recei¬ving ridiculously low wages,” he said.