PORT Y SPAIN, (Reuters) – Trinidad and Tobago said yesterday that it would impose tougher penalties on the human trafficking migrants from neighboring Venezuela, days after a Venezuelan boat that went to the Caribbean twin nation sank, killing at least 28 people.
A humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has triggered the mass migration of millions, including to Trinidad and Tobago, where at least 40,000 Venezuelans now live, while dozens have gone missing since ships they boarded to sink.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley said it had more fleeing Venezuelans than any other nation “per square kilometer and per capita” and that there would be “new and firmer laws for people encouraging illegal trade and tougher penalties for human trafficking” .
His announcement came the same day that Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab said two people had been arrested in connection with the wreck last weekend off the east coast of Venezuelan: the boat’s owners and the property from which it originated.
Arrest warrants have also been issued for seven national guard officers who extorted the equivalent of $ 4,500 from the boat’s owner in exchange for overlooking his human trafficking business, Saab said in comments on the television.
Authorities updated the death toll from the boat wreck to at least an initial 28 of 14, he said.
Rowley said there would be no mass deportation from Venezuelans early next year. His government planned to extend the legal registration of over 16,500 for another six months when it expires at the end of the year, he said.
Yet Venezuelans who have been responsible for bringing illegal immigrants to the Caribbean will be “at the head of the line to return home”, he said.