Desperate to escape being caught by the police, more than 50 Venezuelan women and their children are hiding in the forests of Icacos, with mangoes and coconuts for a meal.
By dusk, when the mosquitoes, gnats and sand flies descend, the hungry women stumble out of the forests in search of food, holding their children protectively around them.
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Guardian Media went in search of the bush families on Thursday and saw evidence of their existence. Fresh tracks were seen in the forest leading to the sea and a knapsack was spotted on the road. A team of officers from the Customs and Excise Division were seen searching in a road leading to the beach near Galfar.
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It is an area accessible only through the bumpy Gran Chemin village in Icacos where an old colonial road once broke off leaving the land exposed to the sea.
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Villager Roxanne Williams who was seen shredding coconut branches to make cocoyea brooms confirmed that she had seen the homeless forest children.
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“It is so sad seeing them. I cannot imagine how they are living in there where there are snakes and all kinds of animals,” she said.
“We estimate that about 300 of them came up here over the past few days. On Wednesday, I saw one woman who had a baby not older than a year. The other child was about four. They were looking for food. They run across the road when they saw me,” Williams said.
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She said whenever the Venezuelans see the police, Customs or Immigration, they would run in the bushes and hide.Q21 Real Estate Promociones
Another villager Candy Edwards said he estimated there were still about 50 Venezuelans hiding in the bushes and abandoned coconut estates in Icacos.
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“Some of those who came before had a contact to take them to various places to work but many who are coming now have no money, no possessions and nowhere to go,” Edwards said.Q21 Real State
Having been imprisoned in Venezuela for 52 days after being arrested by the Guardia Nacional last year, Edwards said the last thing he wanted was to be in Venezuela
“It is no wonder that people running from there. In the villagers like Pedernales, Tucupita and Capri, people are suffering. They have no food, no water and no medicine.”
While Edwards expressed concerns that some of the Venezuelans were criminals he said something has does be done to protect the children
“It’s not right. My mother has been feeding the children from the forests but she cannot take them in.”
Contacted for comment, chairman of the Children’s Authority Haniff Benjamin said the Authority has been working with the Ministry of National Security to assist all children in T&T including those who were foreigners
“We have a mandate to protect all the children of T&T. We are a signatory to the United Nations Rights of Child and we have a duty to provide care and attention to children as well as to protect all children. The mechanisms of the Children’s Authority will kick into place to provide help to the children