Why would a person willingly give up their family, job and community to embark on an illegal, dangerous journey to another country?
In the case of the Venezuelans, it’s because they are generally running away from unbearable, life-threatening circumstances.
Our leaders are publicly pretending not to know that conditions in Venezuelan continue to deteriorate, while our borders are barely protected. People in both countries are benefiting financially by taking advantage of the minimal border monitoring and lack of safety regulations to facilitate the Venezuelan sea crossing into our country. This has resulted in loss of life by drowning as well importation of Covid-19 infections.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide and the majority of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean. If we do not take a systems-approach to this influx, the cultural face of Trinidad and Tobago will change rapidly in the foreseeable future.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has created the (DTM) Displacement Tracking Matrix to track and monitor displaced populations. From a survey conducted, 74% of the respondents confirmed that their mode of transport to Trinidad was via boat.
Last time I checked there is no formal ocean travel between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. I don’t think we have any fast ferries going to Venezuela. If 74% of them are coming via the ocean, who are the facilitators of this travel? Why are we not intercepting more of them on the ocean and landing areas? Is this another instance of us pretending not to know?
Given the size of the Venezuelan population when compared with ours, it is a valid consideration that this unchecked migration can overload our systems and cause further chaos, but appropriately thought-out applied systems, processes and procedures will help us manage the inflow.
Our reality is that historically Venezuelans have migrated to Trinidad and Tobago both formally and informally. There are stories about men with families in both places, or as informally described ‘both sides of the water’.
We should not view this as a zero-sum game where one side wins and the other side loses. We ought to be looking at how we can incorporate skilled Venezuelans into our population.
The pre-Covid registration process was a good start. It needs to be continued and systematised. Legal job options for registered migrants can help us fill the gaps which exist in our ageing population.
Once their status is normalised they will pay taxes, national insurance, health surcharge, etc, and contribute to our country as every other citizen. This is typically how legal immigrants, including T&T citizens, are integrated into society in other parts of the world.
Globally, migrants generally do very well and add value to their host country. The factors that pushed them away from their home country motivate them to work harder in the host country, and fear of losing their immigrant status and thus deportation tends to keep them obeying the law.
The host country, invariably benefits from the presence of migrants so this is a ready solution to some of our employment problems—especially since the data says that 50% of the migrants have had at least post secondary education, including tech-voc certification.
If past performance is any indication of future performance, then we know that promises to purchase more boats will not solve the problem. This problem requires a collaborative approach which focuses on the humanitarian side and presents a structured long term solution.
Pretending not to know the extent to which the Venezuelans are here is kicking the can down the road, while endangering both T&T citizens and Venezuelan immigrants.
Sharing his experience about how storming a J’Ouvert Band led to the creation of a successful enterprise, Event Organizer, Videographer, J’Ouvert Band Producer Alvern Porter suggests that a period of normalcy is unlikely to return to Trinidad and Tobago before 2023. While his local and International event planning business has screeched to a halt, there has been the opening up of online events as possible income generators for him and his colleagues.
Alvern commented that Trinidad and Tobago has traditionally launched the global Carnival experience but that leadership role may be threatened by Covid 19 and we risk some other country assuming that role.
As a Cultural Entrepreneur, he urged other creatives to understand their skill sets and find ways to quickly pivot to other income generating activities. The business side of creativity is where opportunities lie. Having a vision, being passionate about that vision and developing a tolerance for risk can help cultural entrepreneurs create new and different products for a post Covid market.
At 14:19, the conversation changed to Restauranteur Dale Ramirez who shared his business ethos which made Drink Wine Bar and the Loft Art Gallery successful. While both business are casualties of the Covid war, he looks forward to a re-invigorated Woodbrook area where the Parks could be used as open air entertainment spaces. Such an approach is likely to encourage persons to venture out into open spaces to enjoy entertainment and food.
While he likened the current pandemic to a slow motion war where things are vanishing off the face of our cities and towns, he is confident that the recovery will be different once confidence in safety returns. Two enabling factors will be the investment in technology and the ramping up of the infrastructure to create and support cashless transactions.
To young entrepreneurs he cautioned them to see and understand the new needs which will emerge and spend a lot more time on researching and “marinating” their concepts. Dale commented that he and another entrepreneur “Roses” have joined forces to retain some employees and provide a different offering “Punch and Pie”.
His parting request was for us as a society to think out of the box and figure out ways to allow healthy citizens to return to income generation.
Activist, fashion designer, model -Anya Ayoung-Chee shows up as her authentic self on Demming Chronicles. In this riveting conversation, she comments on the need to change the culture of punishing non-conformance and urges Trinidadians to continue showing up as our authentic selves locally and internationally.
Anya cautions that while retaining your authenticity can be punishing, help is available from those who have travelled the path before, so having a mentor could lighten the load. Her three asks of successful women are: to share the cheat codes with younger women; be open to offering mentorships and open the doors especially if you are in the gate keeping role.
Talking about her survival strategy Anya shares that she spends time understanding the values of her ancestry and acknowledging the value each collaborator brings to the table. Her dream is for the Nudge project to become a regional movement where people are actively engaged in creating and living a sustainable life while experiencing the joy of activating their dreams.
She currently directs her energies to a collaboration with Massy Stores called “Nudge” and the feminist empowerment movement “Who She Feel She Is”.
At 16:32, Demming Chronicles engages Fabian Carter, Mixologist, Culinary Entrepreneur and Customer Service Specialist. He boasts of the unique experiences of being the specially selected server to HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II when she opened the CHOGM conference in 2009. His other boast is being selected to serve US President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas Conference which was held in Trinidad in 2009.
Fabian established his company K Code Ltd in 2010 and after moving away from the hotel industry in. 2017, he re-ignited his company and strengthened his business model. Carnival 2019 was particularly successful for Fabian and K-Code but came to a screeching halt with the Covid outbreak. He has changed his business model and focusses on personalizing his offerings to his customers.
His mantra is that success comes from what you do more than from what you hope. He spends his time taking action to refine his offerings to keep him and his customers safe while maintaining high quality standards. His learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic are fail, learn and grow.