On this International Migrants Day, we acknowledge the millions of men, women and children who leave their homes, communities and countries in search of safety, stability and a brighter future.
The history of Trinidad and Tobago is one of migration – both voluntary and involuntary. The arrival of the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta in 1498 was closely followed by migrants from other parts of the world – colonizing forces from Europe, enslaved Africans from West Africa, indentured labourers from India and China and people fleeing religious persecution in Syria. The flow of migrants has gone both ways, with over 373,000 Trinidad and Tobago nationals living abroad, according to United Nations estimates.
According to the International Organisation on Migration, there are 258 million people worldwide who are residing in a country other than their country of birth. The decision to leave home is rarely easy and usually the result of a combination of factors such as poverty, hunger, economic depression, insecurity and political oppression; the journeys undertaken often long and perilous and can leave migrants vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Currently, economic desperation in our nearest neighbour has led to millions of people seeking refuge in nearby countries, including our own. Migration is a complex issue which brings great opportunity for dialogue and understanding. It can be a powerful driver of development and economic growth but must be properly managed through the relevant legal and policy frameworks.
Our nation has committed to fulfilling the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which promises to leave no one behind. As citizens, we are called to show compassion and solidarity with our fellow human beings in their time of desperation and need. As we continue to refine our response to increasing numbers of migrant arrivals, let us remember that human beings deserve to live in dignity and freedom and resolve to ensure that the universal principles of equality, justice and freedom are applied to all.