CONVERSATIONS. In celebration of World Refugee Day (WRD) 2020, UNHCR T&T screened a short film entitled ‘Conversations’ which showcased recorded dialogues between Venezuelan refugees and Trinbagonians. The similarities and differences of their life experiences were discussed, as the film explored the ways in which conversations can change perspectives and foster solidarity between refugees and their host communities. The film screening was the culmination of a four-event festival held virtually in celebration of WRD 2020, from June 18-26, 2020. Other events included; a storytelling event, with two children (Trinidadian & Venezuelan) who read a bilingual story on refugee solidarity; a concert, featuring top Trinidadian acts — Kes the Band and Freetown Collective — as well as refugee and asylum-seeker musicians from Venezuela and Nigeria; and a screening of the films “This Being Human” and “Little Rebel”, featuring Iraqi and Gambian former refugees, along with a Q&A with the stars and filmmaker. The events were shown on the United Nations Information Centre social media and garnered a significant amount of positive feedback and media coverage.
COVID-19 restrictions continued to ease in June with hairdressers, barbers, spas and domestic workers being allowed to work from June 8 and beaches, bars, cinemas, and in-house dining at restaurants resuming operations from June 22. Additionally, the T&T Prime Minister announced that Venezuelans previously registered with the Government in June 2019, would receive a further extension of their documentation, which will now be valid until December 2020. Amid these developments, many refugees and migrants remained vulnerable with reduced access to basic needs, as many commenced their search for employment in an economy adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The use of negative coping mechanisms given inadequate social assistance available to this population remained a concern, while attempts to access territory via irregular means were also noted.
The UNHCR Trinidad and Tobago Operation continued to provide protection assistance for refugees and asylumseekers during this period, reopening its premises to persons of concern on an appointment-only basis from June 1 2020, prioritizing emergency cases and persons with specific needs. Refocused protection operations continue with the implementation of expanded community communication channels and enhanced community-based protection operations.