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Trinidad sends back 35 migrants after gunfire from coast guard kills baby

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Trinidad and Tobago repatriated 35 Venezuelan migrants on Friday after a coast guard interception of their boat ended in a deadly at-sea incident in which a baby died, officials said.

The Caribbean island’s authorities said they had attempted to halt a boat carrying 40 migrants last week but after the vessel from Venezuela refused to stop, the coast guard ship opened fire in “self-defense.”

The baby died in its mother’s arms.

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Over 100 people have lost their lives since 2018 in sinkings in the area between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela - only around 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart - as scores of migrants try to escape the crisis-hit South American nation.

Venezuela has demanded an “exhaustive investigation” into the incident.

A man holds a sign reading Migration is not a crime after a Venezuelan migrant infant died in a security operation when a vessel illegally crossed the maritime border of Trinidad and Tobago, outside the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, in Caracas, Venezuela February 8, 2022. (Reuters)
A man holds a sign reading Migration is not a crime after a Venezuelan migrant infant died in a security operation when a vessel illegally crossed the maritime border of Trinidad and Tobago, outside the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, in Caracas, Venezuela February 8, 2022. (Reuters)

On Friday, Trinidad’s National Security Ministry said a “repatriation exercise was carried out” of 35 migrants, who had illegally entered the island’s territorial waters, in accordance with bilateral agreements between the two countries.

The fate of the four remaining migrants from that boat was not clear.

Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley sought to downplay the gravity of the incident, denouncing “the hysteria around this matter” and saying that similar incidents take place in other countries.

The route is heavily trafficked by people smugglers transporting migrants on overloaded boats that are prone to overturning.

According to the UN, some five million Venezuelans have fled the country of 30 million since 2015, with 25,000 choosing to go to Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million, which says it has recorded the arrival of 16,000 Venezuelans.

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