Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayn Maharaj does not believe that this country has the capacity to “accommodate any more citizens,” and has no interest in assisting people seeking refuge here from other countries.
Maharaj told Guardian Media yesterday that Trinidad and Tobago is a “small country, we have 1.3 million people and already we are being over-crowded because you have free movement of people in the Caricom region who are coming here and settling and now we are being called upon to accept refugees from other countries.”
On Wednesday, Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Jason Gordon appealed to the country to stand in solidarity “with migrants and refugees and to promote their human rights.”
Parishes across the country have been asked to become part of the Migrant and Refugee Ministry initiative and to set up committees to take the initiative forward. There was also a signal from Committee member Rochelle Nakhid that they intended to reach out to other faith-based organisations to see “how they can provide support.”
Maharaj there would be no support from the organisation which he leads. He said “we have the United Nations for that. You have other wealthy countries who can reach out. We have enough problems of our own here and I believe we should spend our time solving the problems of those who are dispossessed and unemployed, the poor, we have to internalise our problems.”
Things are “so difficult,” here, he said, that Trinidadians are “leaving here and seeking refugee status either in the United States or Canada.”
But Public Relations Officer of the group, Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago, Imtiaz Mohammed said the group has actually attended a programme hosted by the Living Water Community to learn more about how to assist refugees.
He said at the meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in March at the Diplomatic Centre they also appealed to the PM “for laws to be implemented,” to assist refugees. A similar appeal was made to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi but Mohammed said, “there has been no response.”
They also met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, he said, to “discuss the issue and to get information on the issue of refugees.”
The Muslim community, he said, had a particular interest because they wanted the Government “to allow 1,000 Syrian refugees into the country.” But that fell down because “there are no laws in place.”
Mohammed said the community was willing to “finance the stay of those who came,” because once a person has refugee status they cannot work.
Asked whether their interest was mainly for Syrians, he said that was their focus initially because “they were at the worse end.”
He said there are “Muslim families who are interested in adopting children where there are disasters not just from Syria, but we want to assist with refugees and orphan children.”
Mohammed said it was “disappointing and disheartening to know the Government does not seem to be interested in passing laws to be able to help the refugees get relief.”
As to a lobby to government to implement the law signed in 1951 on refugees, he said, that would require a “combined effort.”
The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in 2000. It is also a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and supplementing conventions, and the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)