Young blames human trafficking for Venezuelans’ drowning


National Security Minister
Stuart Young.

MINISTER of National Security Stuart Young on Tuesday in the Senate flatly denied the Coast Guard had any involvement in last Saturday’s tragic drowning of a boatload of Venezuelan citizens who were heading to Trinidad.

At last count, the bodies of 19 victims had been found in the sea, including an 11-month-old baby and children two, six and eight years old.

Young replied to an urgent question by Senator Wade Mark, who asked if counselling was being offered to victims’ relatives in TT.

“Madam President, the loss of life in this tragic manner is upsetting,” Young said. “We, the Governmen,t are aware that bodies were recovered close to the Venezuelan town of Guiria and in Venezuelan waters. We have also been informed that unfortunately yesterday (Monday) more bodies were found on the shoreline of Venezuela.”

He said his ministry and the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs have been in constant touch with the Venezuelan authorities.

“We continue to see all sorts of speculation as to the TT Coast Guard’s involvement in it, none of which are true. The available information suggests this was an incident of human smuggling. This fact seems to be overlooked.”

Young said human trafficking and human smuggling were illegal and not to be encouraged.

“It is very sad that the criminal elements involved in human trafficking and human smuggling have, through their nefarious activities, caused the loss of lives, and we pray for their families.

“With respect to whether they have loved ones in this country, we have not been provided with any such information, and I use this opportunity to remind persons that both the borders of Venezuela as well as the borders of TT remain closed, and it is illegal for persons to enter without the requisite permission and authority.”

In a supplemental question, Mark asked if the two nations were discussing how to stop human smuggling, but Senate President Christine Kangaloo disallowed it.

Later, in a listed question, Mark asked how TT was restricting an influx of Venezuelans at a time of the covid19 pandemic.

Young replied that many countries had trouble protecting their coasts, including European nations. He said TT is using its Coast Guard to maintain a 24-hour watch, along with coastal radar and the availability of soldiers and police on shore. He did not have details as to the number of human traffickers caught, but knew of at least ten who have been charged, including law-enforcement officers.

Mark asked how many vessels the Coast Guard was using, but Young declined to answer on grounds of national security.

Mark asked if it was one, but Kangaloo disallowed the query.

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