2,000 Venezuelans are returning home as the cost of living in Trinidad and Tobago rises



Venezuelans arrive at Cedros port with their luggage to return home on January 27. — MARVIN HAMILTON

More than 2,000 Venezuelans who came to TT in search of a better life have returned home as the cost of living here rises.

Since TT reopened its borders on July 17, 2021, thousands of migrants have left voluntarily. The borders were closed in March 2020 as one of the measures to prevent the spread of Covid19.

One of the largest single groups to leave on the day the borders reopened.

On that day, almost 700 migrants, who had sought refuge here to escape the economic and political turmoil, left this country on a chartered ship to return home.

Most of the passengers were sick, unemployed, single mothers, pregnant women and children.

As of mid-2019, some of the adults had taken advantage of the registration exercise offered by the government, which allowed 16,523 of them to live and work in that country.

In February 2021, the government authorized the arrival of a Venezuelan plane at Piarco Airport to take 90 migrants home. The Venezuelan Embassy in TT was responsible for both repatriation trips.

Venezuelans share a selfie of their final moments on Trinidadian soil before boarding a boat in Cedros to return home. – MARVIN HAMILTON

According to Venezuelans living in TT, hundreds more have been deported by the government and an unknown number have left irregularly in small boats.

Some families, who left their children behind when they fled Venezuela because food and medical supplies were becoming scarce, said their decision to return home was also difficult.

Cristian Roldan, a 32-year-old Venezuelan who was waiting in Cedros port on January 27 to get on the boat to take him home after four years in TT, says he misses his son.

“I came to TT for my son and now I’m returning for him. When I left my country he was two years old, now he’s grown up. I miss him and need to hug him,” Roldan said.

He thanked the folks at TT for opening their doors and supporting him during his stay.

“I think my time at TT is over. I’m going to my country and I’m looking for alternatives to continue giving my son the socio-economic stability he needs and to be by his side,” Roldan said.

Although many Venezuelans believe that things have not improved in their country, others, like Carlos Altuve, believe that they have.

“There are options, some stores can be opened in Venezuela. Now the US Dollar is heavily traded there and many businesses have reopened. I want to try my luck in my own country, with my family nearby,” Altuve said.

He and his brother Andres, both lawyers, have been with TT for three years and have worked here in the construction industry.

Cesar Armao was in TT for three and a half years before deciding to end his migration adventure.

“I’m fed up with migration, here too the economy is changing, prices for food, transport, rent and medicine are increasing, while wages for migrants are getting lower,” he said.

A crew member catches luggage thrown by another crew member at Cedros port, where Venezuelans boarded a boat to return home on January 27. — MARVIN HAMILTON

“TT is a beautiful country, but unfortunately for migrants, the legal situation and the lack of answers for our children’s education and medical care are forcing us to go to other countries,” said Luisa Arcia.

She planned to arrive in Venezuela with her son, see her parents and travel on to Brazil a week later.

“In Brazil and other countries, legal support for Venezuelans is important. We have had work permit ID for several years, access to bank accounts, driver’s licenses, migrant children can study and go to medical consultations in public systems, very different from the treatment we receive in TT. It is incomprehensible that a migrant child who is not to blame for the things in the world cannot receive an education and health,” she said.

Every Venezuelan who returns to their country has different reasons and plans for the future, some leave to stay and try to advance in their own country, while others continue to look for opportunities in other countries.

Angel del Orinoco is the main transportation company that has brought home most Venezuelans with its ferry service.

Orangel Lacourt, owner of Angel del Orinoco, told Sunday Newsday that since they received the travel permits last year, more than 1,000 migrants have traveled with them from TT to Venezuela.

Venezuelans hug the earth as some prepare to board a boat in Cedros to return home on January 27. — MARVIN HAMILTON

Lacourt said two 36-passenger boats make two trips a week.

“We are a company that has been operating in both countries for five years and has more than 30 employees. We have two boats that make the trip once a week, departing from Manamo Port, Tucupita, Venezuela to Cedros Port in TT on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said.

Other shipping companies based in both countries are also going through the legal procedures for sea transportation of people.

Puerto Caribe is one of the shipping companies that currently transport packages but also want to carry passengers.

Sheliza Sebatiani, owner of the company, said they have the port of Guiria as a point in Venezuela and the port of Chaguaramas.

“We’re just awaiting approval from the Trinidadian authorities because the private port we use only has permits for sending parcels,” she said.

Sebastiani hopes to start TT-Venezuela passenger travel in the coming weeks.

The Angel del Orinoco register contains hundreds of requests for tickets to return to Venezuela.

Venezuelans can also return to Panama via Piarco and then to Caracas on flights operated by Copa Airlines. So far there are no direct commercial flights between the two countries.

Angel del Orinoco offers its tickets at TT$ 2,000 or US$ 250 per person, in addition to TT$ 75 for the exit tax and the antigen or PCR test for covid19 with 72 hours of prior validity, whose prices vary from TT$ 250. There is an additional fee for the taxi to take passengers to Cedros.

Venezuelans wait under a tent in Cedros port to board a boat to return home on January 27. — MARVIN HAMILTON

Puerto Caribe has a lower rate plan of $125 per person plus other usual expenses.

“Our intention is to be able to help Venezuelans who want to return to their country. We have many friends who are not doing well here and who have to go home,” said Sebastiani.

For those who want to travel by plane, Copa Airlines offers the flight to Caracas for $783 on its website, in addition to the cost of a PCR test and taxes.

Venezuelan embassy officials told Sunday Newsday that any person wishing to travel must have a valid passport and those who do not have one must opt ​​for a temporary travel permit worth TT$375 or US$50.

Minors also need the consent of their parents or legal representatives. Provisional travel permits for children without a passport are issued free of charge.

Sunday Newsday understands that the Venezuelan Embassy in TT is not directly managing the organization of the trips, but they have cooperated by providing the appropriate information on the procedure to be followed by the shipping companies to obtain the appropriate permits .


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