Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 13th 2018 Contents news A3
Thursday, September 13, 2018
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70 had no permits
An invasion of Venezuelans labour-
ers without work permits has been
discovered at the Red House!
That’s what Urban Corporation of
T&T (Udecott) chairman Noel Garcia
found when he called for a full-scale
investigation into migrants working
as labourers on the $441 million Red
House restoration project.
Garcia made the disclosure in
a telephone interview yesterday,
following an exclusive June T&T
Guardian article which reported
that contractors working on the mul-
ti-million dollar project had been re-
taining migrants as cheap labourers.
In 2005, Udecott assumed respon-
sibility for the project, which began
19 years ago.
The discovery of the Venezuelan
invasion prompted Garcia to call
on the site’s project manager for an
immediate probe into the hiring of
foreign labourers by the 12 sub-con-
tractors undertaking the job and to
submit a report to its board.
A warning was also issued by
Garcia to the contractors that if the
Venezuelans are not in possession of
work permits, the Immigration Divi-
sion would be notified.
Following the week-long investiga-
tion, a report was submitted to then
Housing Minister and Prime Minis-
ter Dr Keith Rowley, under whose
purview Udecott fell then. Housing
Minister Edmund Dillon is now line
minister for Udecott.
In giving an update on the matter
yesterday, Garcia admitted that he
did not realise there were so many
Venezuelans and other foreigners
working on the construction site
without work permits.
“It was almost a mini United Na-
tions group...from Jamaicans to
Venezuelans. We even had one
American. A number of them hadn’t
The Red House has a work crew
Garcia admitted that the bulk of
the migrants were Venezuelans who
came here seeking jobs.
Asked how many non-nationals
had secured jobs at the Port-of-Spain
site without permits, Garcia said “it
was quite a few. I would say over 70
workers. But they have now gone.
We had to get rid of them. We are
not prepared to condone the break-
ing of the law.
“Some of them surprised me
saying that they were with Living
Waters. Not because you are with
Living Waters seeking refugee status
it gives you, in our view, the right
to work on the Red House,” Garcia
Those who were non-holders of
work permits, Garcia said, were im-
mediately removed from the site.
However, he refused to say if Im-
migration Division had been alerted
about the status of the labourers.
The T&T Guardian was told that
the Venezuelans were paid $250 a
day as labourers, while locals were
demanding $400 for a day’s work.
In some cases, the Venezue-
lans, some of whom were women,
worked beyond their eight-hour
“So any non-national working at
the Red House must have a work
permit. The Venezuelans are almost
everywhere. They are now on con-
struction sites,... in bars and super-
markets,” Garcia said.
In light of this development, Gar-
cia said Udecott had to lay down
the law, making it mandatory that
any contractor retained by Udecott
must ensure their migrant workers
have valid permits.
“These foreign workers were not
hired by Udecott. I want to make
that absolutely clear. In terms of
terminating those workers it was
not Udecott’s responsibility.”
Currently, Garcia said there are
20 Colombians, three Cubans and
three Americans on the site, all of
whom have work permits.
Social, economic and political up-
heavals, as well as hyperinflation,
shortages of food, medicine and
other supplies, have forced many
Venezuelans to flee their country
and look for work in neighbouring
countries, including T&T, to earn
money and supplies to send back
home to their families.
According to the August 2017
United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees report, there are an es-
timated 40,000 Venezuelans in T&T.
To date, approximately 2,000 Vene-
zuelans have applied for asylum and
the numbers are increasing, acting
Chief Immigration Officer Char-
maine Gandhi-Andrews told a Joint
Select Committee of Parliament in
Workmen at the Red House restoration site yesterday.
PICTURE KERWIN PIERRE
Curepe landowners, Sinanan broker deal
The war between the Ministry of
Works and Transport and resi-
dents whose lands are in the path
of the $221.7 million Curepe Inter-
change has come to a halt - at least
Following an almost three-hour
long meeting yesterday between
attorneys Stefan Ramkissoon and
Vishan Girwar, who represented the
affected residents and Works and
Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan,
his director of legal services Mar-
vin Gonzales and acting Director of
Highways Navin Ramsingh, a resolu-
tion was reached and all parties left
Emerging from the meeting at the
ministry’s Port-of-Spain head office
with eight residents, Ramkissoon
said, “What we can say with surety
is that the residents are moving for-
ward. The negotiations are ongoing.
It (meeting) has gone well. And the
residents can rest assured they will
get a fair and proper compensation
package from the ministry and Gov-
During the meeting, the residents
expressed displeasure with the ne-
gotiation process and the value of-
fered for their lands.
“These concerns were voiced in
detail to the minister and his legal
team and representatives. The min-
ister and his team properly advised
them and quelled those concerns.
So they (residents) are quite happy
how the meeting went and negoti-
ations will now begin again to get a
fair compensation package for both
sides,” Ramkissoon said.
“We are opened to negotiations...
negotiations will begin again. We
will ensure that everyone is happy
at the end of the day.”
But both attorneys said they did
not arrive at a compensation figure.
They also sidestepped questions
about what their biggest hurdle was
but admitted negotiations must be
done before year’s end.
As for the eviction notices, Girwar
said there was a commitment that
no further action will be taken until
September 18, which is when the
ministry’s attorney will respond to a
legal letter sent by attorney Michael
Rooplal, who has also been defend-
ing the residents.
Asked if there were heated argu-
ments, Ramkissoon said no, noting
the meeting was cordial.
At a press conference on Monday,
Gonzales had disclosed that some
landowners were hellbent on be-
coming millionaires at the expense
of taxpayers, as many of them had
put in claims for their lands “well
over 300 per cent of the actual prop-
He cited one particular claim
where a landowner had claimed
for $20 million for their residential
property” but during negotiations
with the Commissioner of Valua-
tions, it dropped to $5 million.
Since 2014, the ministry has been
engaged in consultation and negoti-
ations with stakeholders on the land
acquisition for the project.
The original project included 22
parcels of land for the interchange
but this figure grew to 37, which in-
cludes residential, commercial, agri-
cultural, State and privately owned
Also speaking afterwards, Sinanan
told the T&T Guardian he was satis-
fied with the outcome.
“Clearly, there was a lot of mis-
communication taking place and
hopefully, in going forward, we
would be able to clear up all of that,”
While fresh negotiations will be
put forward, Sinanan said his min-
istry does not handle the valuation
“What the attorneys at the minis-
try have pledged to do is work closer
to ensure the right information is
sent to both parties,” Sinanan said.
— Shaliza Hassanali
Some of the Curepe residents listen to the press conference outside the Ministry of Works after yesterday’s meeting.
PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ
Red House Project purges illegal workers
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