Asylum-seekers and refugees are protected from forcible return to a country in which their life or freedom may be in danger on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Even if you enter the country without a visa or entry permit, you may not be deported while your asylum claim undergoes a due process of analysis.
The authorities may not detain or penalize you for entering the country without an entry visa if you claim asylum verbally or in writing to an immigration official upon arriving from a country where your life or freedom may be in danger. The authorities also may not penalize you for overstaying in the country.
However, you must respect the national laws of Trinidad and Tobago. Breaking the law may result in a conviction irrespective of your status in the country.
Protection and asylum
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, any person whose life is in danger in their own country has the right to seek protection and asylum in another country.
As an asylum-seeker in Trinidad and Tobago, you have the right to receive information about your asylum application, your rights and your duties in a language you understand.
You have the right to contact UNHCR in Trinidad and Tobago at any point during the process, from the moment of expressing your fear of return to your country of origin.
You have the right to live in an environment free from discrimination, regardless of ethnicity, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, nationality, economic position, birthplace or any other personal attribute.
The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago guarantees rights without discrimination on the basis of race, origin, color, religion or sex.
Access to Banking Services
Refugees and asylum-seekers do not currently have the same rights to public and private banking services as nationals and residents of Trinidad and Tobago. Refugees and asylum-seekers may not open a bank account, transfer funds and access other basic banking services.
You may have access to money transfer services, such as Western Union or Money Gram in some cases. If you do encounter a problem, you can request advice and assistance from LWC.
Refugee status recognizes the nuclear family and other dependent relatives up to the second degree of blood or family relationship. If you are a refugee that has been recognized by UNHCR, you can bring your immediate family members to Trinidad and Tobago, including:
- Your spouse.
- Your children under 18 years of age.
- Your parents if you are an unaccompanied or separated child.
Requests for reunification must be made to LWC who will guide you through the procedure.
Upon arrival to Trinidad and Tobago, your relative will receive a Refugee Certificate from the UNHCR and a government-issued document permitting them to remain in Trinidad and Tobago.
What happens if you want your relatives to visit you in Trinidad and Tobago, but only temporarily?
If you are a refugee that has been recognized by UNHCR, and you wish for your family members to visit temporarily, you should find out if the visitors need a tourist visa to enter Trinidad and Tobago. Your family members must follow the correct procedure as stated by the Trinidad and Tobago consulate. You can find more information about tourist visa applications here.
All persons in Trinidad and Tobago have access to state-provided primary health-care. Pre-natal and some post-natal healthcare are also provided free of cost at these public healthcare centers. Some medicines are available free of cost with a prescription from a doctor in the healthcare centre or hospital. Certain medicines, like insulin, may not be covered.
For secondary or specialized healthcare services you may have to see a private doctor, which can be costly. These include non-emergency surgical procedures and specialized treatments like dialysis and chemotherapy.
You may also have access to basic assistance in shelter, food and medical care from LWC. These services are supplied on a case-by-case basis.
At this time, the laws of Trinidad and Tobago do not allow asylum-seekers or refugees to be employed. UNHCR and LWC continue to provide basic assistance in shelter, food and medical care to asylum-seekers and refugees on a case-by-case basis.
Foreign-born children of asylum-seekers and refugees may face difficulties entering the public-school system. Public education is typically not available to asylum-seekers in Trinidad and Tobago. Private education institutions may accept students in some instances. However, private schooling is quite costly, averaging 2000 US dollars annually.
Therefore, UNHCR and LWC provide education support on a case-by-case basis.
Freedom of Movement
You have the right to move freely throughout national territory and choose where you want to live, but you must update LWC and the Immigration Division of changes to your address.
While awaiting the determination of your claim, you must stay in Trinidad and Tobago or inform the Refugee Unit and UNHCR of your intent to depart the country. If you leave at any time without prior communication to the Refugee Unit and UNHCR, it may be considered abandonment of your asylum claim.
A refugee may travel to any country, but cannot travel to their country of origin. Prior permission to leave and reenter Trinidad and Tobago is needed from the Refugee Unit.
Remember, you must inform LWC, the Refugee Unit and UNHCR of any arrangements to travel abroad as well as changes to your address or telephone number.