UN team to investigate Trinidad -Tobago complaints in controversy over repatriation of Venezuelans

Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – A complaint made by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister      Dr Keith Rowley about a locally-based United Nations (UN) official’s “misinformed” comments following the repatriation of 82 Venezuelans last month, has got the attention of the UN’s Secretary General António Guterres.

Acting Attorney General Stuart Young says Guterres plans to send a team to Trinidad and Tobago to investigate the matter.

After the Venezuelans were repatriated on April 20, the Trinidad and Tobago government had faced criticism, including from UN Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt, for sending back the non-nationals, who were seeking asylum.

Rowley had written to Guterres, expressing discomfort and disappointment about the UN representative’s statements. He expressed concern about the misinformation that was being spread, and insisted that Trinidad and Tobago had followed the law. The Trinidadian leader said all the Venezuelans had been interviewed on camera and volunteered to return home.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing  last week, Young said that in a teleconference on Tuesday, the Prime Minister and Guterres had a “positive, productive, vigorous and detailed conversation”.

During that conversation, Rowley said he felt aggrieved that a UN representative had criticized the country before consulting with the government to ascertain the facts.

Young said that during the discussion, Guterres indicated he had not been aware of the controversy before T&T’s ambassador at the UN, Penelope Beckles, conveyed the government’s concerns and made a request for him to have a call with Rowley.

The UN boss subsequently said he would send a team of senior officials from the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) “to meet with Government to ensure that the right facts are put forward.”

No date for that visit has been disclosed.