64 migrants still in custody: Decision Tuesday on Venezuelans

AN undertaking has been given to hold off on deporting 64 Venezuelan nationals currently detained at the Chaguaramas heliport until Tuesday.

The assurance was given on Friday, by attorney Gregory Delzin who represents the Minister of National Security in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the 64 who are seeking their release from the immigration detention facility after they were arrested at a St James bar on July 9.

Justice Ricky Rahim is presiding over a judicial review application filed for the 64. On Tuesday, he is expected to rule on the interim reliefs they have asked for if they get permission to pursue their claim against the minister.

The 64 have asked for orders restraining the minister from deporting them and compelling him to give them permission to remain in TT after he releases them.

In the alternative, they want an order for their release on orders of supervision pending their application before the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for asylum seeker/refugee status.

At a hearing on Friday, Delzin objected to leave being granted as they had no cause of action.

He said the application for judicial review was unclear since they complained about their detention while also complaining about the delay in deporting them.

“What is it they are asking the court?” He also said they have failed to show that asylum seekers or refugees had legal rights against deportation.

“The grounds pleaded are not sufficient.”

“Does the (UN) convention (on refugees) accrue a benefit to those who land on our beaches?”

“The entire application is predicated on a misreading of the law,” Delzin said.

“So which is it? Are they saying that they cannot be deported or is it that they are saying that they can be deported but it is just that they are being held at the facility for too long,” Delzin asked.

Attorney Vanessa Gopaul, who also represents the State, further argued that the State had a right to detain anyone pending deportation. She also said the immigration division did not have the power to place the detainees under orders of supervision after they were issued deportation orders.

In response to the State’s objections, attorney Elton Prescott, SC, who leads a team of attorneys for the 64, said the minister acted unlawfully when the group was first detained at the heliport which, at the time, was not a designated detention facility.

He said after the courts pronounced on it and it was declared as one, the immigration department should have applied its discretion under section 17 of the Immigration Act to release them on supervision orders while their applications were before the UNHCR.

The 64 were part of a larger group of almost 200 who were held on July 9 at the Apex Bar along the Western Main Road in St James during a joint police operation.

A handful were released on the basis that their detention at the heliport was unlawful since, at the time, it had not yet been designated an immigration detention facility by the minister in accordance with the Immigration Act.

On July 25, after Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams ordered the release of six, the minister designated the heliport an immigration station.

Two days later, Justice Frank Seepersad made the declaration that the detention of a member of the group up until the minister’s designation was unlawful and ruled that the man, the man, Samih Tarek Soriti Benitez, will be entitled to compensation for his illegal detention.

Also representing the group of 64 are Criston J Williams, Baine Sobrian and Shivanand Mohan.

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