Venezuelans hug earch as some of them prepare to board a boat at Cedros to return to their homeland on in this January file photo. Photo by Marvin Hamilton
Hundreds of Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago are asking their country’s authorities for another official repatriation trip.
The migrants are calling publicly on both the Venezuelan embassy and the government of Nicolás Maduro. They are asking for the activation of theVuelta a la Patria plan (Return to the motherland),which is provided free of charge.
Newsday spoke with some of the people who are applying for repatriation.
Carmen Díaz said: “I’ve been here for two years and it really hasn’t gone well for me. I came two months before starting the covid19 pandemic and I only got more indebted because there were no jobs.
“I want to go home, but I don’t have money to pay for a boat back.”
Díaz said the little money she earns working in a farm is spent on food and rent, and she has little left to help her family in Venezuela.
“The increase in food prices and the lower wages for migrants every day have me depressed. I want to go home,” she said.
Díaz said to return to her home in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, would cost about $3,400.
“I don’t have that money. That’s why I am asking the authorities of my country to approve another repatriation trip. Just like me, there are hundreds of Venezuelans who want to leave but don’t have enough money.”
Carlos Araujo is in a more complicated situation. His two daughters, six and nine, are not at school. He wants them to continue their education in Venezuela, since they cannot do it here.
“My wife has to go with my daughters, I can’t send them alone. That’s three tickets I don’t have the money for,” he said.
Araujo and his family have been here for four years. He said he sold his car in Venezuela to pay for the tickets when they came.
“Now it’s different. I have nothing to sell. Every day I spend more money on food and rent and my daughters do not study. I am under great pressure and the only alternative is a repatriation trip,” he said.
In 2021, during the covid19 restrictions, the Venezuelan government made two repatriation trips through the embassy here. The TT government gave the relevant permission.
In February a flight took 96 passengers from Piarco to Caracas. In July a ferry took more than 700 Venezuelans back to their country.
Andreina Briceno Brown, director of the NGO La Casita of the Hispanic Cultural Centre of Arima, said she has been receiving requests for help from hundreds of families eager to return to Venezuela.
La Casita started a virtual poll on August 11 to find out how many people want to return home but cannot afford it.
“We know the vast majority are mothers with their children who have not been able to study here. The parents would stay here working to help them,” she said.
The final figures will be delivered to the Ministry of National Security to process the information.
Venezuela’s ambassador, Álvaro Sánchez Cordero, told Newsday the embassy has also received requests for help from people who want to go home. He said in the next few days he will start a census to determine their numbers.
“We hope to have the official data to be able to make the formal request for the activation of a trip of theVuelta a la Patria plan to the relevant authorities of our country,” he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported as of July 31, 16,648 Venezuelans have requested refuge or asylum in TT.
However, the figures may be higher.
Information from R4V, the Interagency Co-ordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (established by the UN and IOM), showed in December there were 28,500 Venezuelans here.
The last official report issued by the Ministry of National Security in March 2021, for the re-registration of Venezuelans with work permits, showed 13,500 people were still here from among the 16, 523 who obtained registration cards in 2019.
In January, Newsday reported that weekly, since the reopening of the borders in July 2020, more than 100 Venezuelans were returning to their country legally by air and sea.