TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 2021
Authorities continued to restrict access to international protection for asylum seekers. Women asylum seekers remained at heightened risk of gender-based violence. The government failed to abolish the mandatory death penalty or provide protection in law for LGBTI people.
A state of emergency, including restrictions on freedom of movement and a curfew, were put in place during much of the year to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
As of August, over 20,800 refugees and asylum seekers had been registered with UNHCR the UN refugee agency; 86% were from Venezuela and 7% from Cuba.
Trinidad and Tobago remained one of the few countries in the Americas to have no national legislation on asylum. In practice, this meant that people who applied for protection or were granted refugee status by UNHCR, which processes asylum claims in the country, continued to have limited access to many of the rights granted under the UN Refugee Convention and its Protocol, to which Trinidad and Tobago is party.
Most Venezuelans continued to arrive irregularly by boat as most legal routes of entry were closed to them. However, irregular entry continued to be criminalized, leaving many asylum seekers, including children, at risk of detention and/or refoulement, in contradiction to international human rights law and standards.
In a positive development, authorities granted migrants and asylum seekers access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Violence against women and girls
Women and girls continued to be at risk of gender-based violence and discrimination.
Venezuelan women seeking international protection reported that they had been frequent targets of harassment and sexual violence during 2020.1 In August 2021, according to news reports, a Venezuelan woman was kidnapped and threatened with rape.
Venezuelan women remained afraid to report attacks, including because of fear that perpetrators would report them to the police or the immigration authorities and, under the current legal framework, that they could be detained or deported.
Venezuelan women continued to experience a range of crimes associated with trafficking into the sex sector, including deprivation of their liberty by traffickers, rape and other forms of sexual violence, labour exploitation and debt bondage. However, there remained insufficient resources for anti-trafficking programmes, including safe shelter, healthcare and counselling.
Some women seeking asylum sold sex as a way to support their livelihoods but often had to work long hours in exploitative work conditions and had debts to pay off related to their passage to the country.
In November, the Attorney General announced national consultations on the mandatory death penalty, which remained in force and was pending a judgment from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in the UK, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest appellate court.
LGBTI people’s rights
The Attorney General also announced national consultations on legislation which criminalizes same-sex sexual relationships. A JCPC ruling which could have implications for LGBTI rights, was still pending at the end of the year.