The Trinidad & Tobago government plans to deport large numbers of undocumented migrants, whom they blame for violent crime and gang activity — a claim unproven so far.
On November 5, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said that the estimated 110,000 migrants living illegally on the twin island nation — an attractive destination due to its strong economy — would have two months to regularize their status, or face deportation, reported Newsday.
Griffith told Newsday that undocumented migrants were linked to Trinidad & Tobago’s crime problems. “We have intelligence that confirms there are many persons who are here as illegal immigrants and who are involved in all aspects of drug related activity and serious crimes,” he stated.
Griffith added that it was “not coincidental” that both gang activity and illegal migration had increased beginning around 2004.
According to Trinidad Express, the highest number of migrants come from Guyana, Jamaica and Venezuela.
InSight Crime Analysis
Given that undocumented migrants represent around 10 percent of Trinidad & Tobago’s approximately 1.2 million residents, some violent crime can inevitably be attributable to this sector. This, however, says little about the number of migrants involved in crime compared to the rest of the population. Criminalizing migrants is a convenient political excuse for deporting them en masse — as has been seen in the US — but Trinidad & Tobago may be better served by improving migration policies and processes to encourage migrants to regularize their status.
The crackdown on migrants may partly be a reaction to increased drug transit through Trinidad & Tobago, which has brought with it transnational organized crime and may also be linked to a nearly four-fold rise in the homicide rate between 2000 and 2010 — from 9.3 to 35.2 per 100,000, according to the UNODC (pdf).
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Caribbean
Gang activity is also a serious problem in Trinidad & Tobago, which as of 2011 had an estimated 110 gangs with over 1,300 total members. Griffith’s announcement comes on the heels of a case in which a Jamaican man was gunned down alongside a Trinidad gang leader suspected of murdering a soldier. Unnamed sources told Trinidad Express this event pointed to Jamaican immigrant influence in local gangs, although one media report described the man as a filmmaker who was unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire.