Geneva, 25 November 2020
We are deeply concerned at the decision by Trinidad and Tobago to deport 16 Venezuelan children and nine adults at the same time as an application was being lodged against their removal.
On 22 November, the group, which had arrived in Trinidad on 17 November, were placed on two boats and escorted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard out of the country’s territorial waters towards the Venezuelan coast. The Trinidad and Tobago High Court dismissed their application as they were considered outside the country’s jurisdiction.
The whereabouts of the group, which included children as young as four months, were reportedly unknown for 24 hours. We understand that the entire group returned by boat to Trinidad on 24 November.
All refugees and migrants, regardless of status, are entitled to the respect and protection of their human rights. With regard to refugee and migrant children, States have a special duty of care - the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them.
Children should never be forcibly deported based on their, or their parents', migration status. The precondition to any return involving a child is that an independent and impartial decision has been taken, involving child protection officials, and that a return is a sustainable solution that will ensure the rights, welfare and best interests of the child. State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child must safeguard the rights of all children on their territory, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status. We therefore call on the Trinidad and Tobago authorities to safeguard the human rights of refugee and migrant children regardless of their status, including by ensuring access to due process and procedural safeguards, consistent with the principle of non-refoulement.
Consistent with previous calls by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Network on Migration, we urge governments to suspend all forced returns amid the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard the health of migrants and communities and to instead provide safe and legal pathways for migrants, including children, to regularize their status and avoid the risk of deportation.
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