An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister and a bicameral legislature. The island of Tobago’s House of Assembly has some administrative autonomy over local matters. The country held parliamentary elections in August 2020. The ruling People’s National Movement, led by Keith Rowley, defeated the opposition United National Congress led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Local media observers considered the elections generally free and fair.

The Ministry of National Security oversees three major divisions: police, immigration, and defense. Police maintain internal security. The defense force, which includes the Coast Guard, is responsible for external security but also has specific domestic security responsibilities. The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime border security in places with no official ports of entry. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by police, refoulement of asylum seekers, serious acts of corruption, and human trafficking.

The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption, but impunity persisted because of open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. As of October more than 20,800 refugees and asylum seekers in the country were registered with UNHCR. UNHCR’s registered population of concern originated from 40 different countries; of these persons, 86 percent were from Venezuela and 7 percent from Cuba.

Access to Asylum: Although the country is a party to the 1951 Convention of the Status of Refugees, the law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for protecting asylum seekers. The government agreed to let UNHCR conduct refugee status determinations. Thousands of UNHCR’s determinations affirmed refugee status. A positive determination by UNHCR, however, did not confer recognition by the government of an individual as a refugee or otherwise affect the person’s legal status in the country. Access to asylum remained a significant problem for detained individuals, since there were no formal procedures to register those who seek asylum. The refugee NGO Living Water Community and UNHCR did not have access to the immigration detention center to register asylum seekers.

Refoulement: Various international agencies expressed alarm that Venezuelans deported from the country were subject in Venezuela to detentions of more than standard quarantine periods, extortion, solicitation of bribes, and abuse by Venezuelan officials.

In July the government worked with Venezuela to repatriate more than 700 Venezuelans. UN agencies and NGOs expressed concerns to the government and requested access to detained persons who were to be deported; reportedly, access was limited.

Access to Basic Services: Refugee children had no access to public education because they do not qualify for the required student permit under the Immigration Act. The government had no plans to provide alternative educational resources for these children.

Durable Solutions: The government collaborated with UNHCR to facilitate transit of a few refugees to countries that offered them resettlement.

Temporary Protection: In response to a large influx of Venezuelans, the government conducted a one-time registration exercise in June 2019 and agreed to allow registrants to reside, work, and access emergency health services in the country for one year from their registration date. Approximately 16,500 Venezuelans registered at that time with the government. Registration was unavailable in 2020 and 2021 to those who arrived after or who failed to register during the June 2019 exercise. In March the government conducted a reregistration exercise to extend the original permits: 13,800 of the original 16,500 persons reregistered by the April 9 deadline to have their permits extended, valid until mid-October. UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration reported that as of December the government had not extended these registrations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, marital status, or disability. There were no reports of ethnic violence or systemic discrimination between workers among these groups. The government investigated and addressed racial or ethnic discrimination practices.

The government supported principles of racial harmony, which were woven into the constitution, public discourse, education, and by the declaration of national holidays that hold religious or cultural significance for various ethnic groups. The government stated disparities in outcomes for ethnic groups were due to lingering effects of institutional racism inherited from slavery and colonial rule and described any racial tensions as secondary symptoms stemming from differing economic conditions or lack of economic opportunity.

The primary political parties tended to break along racial lines between the Afro-Trinbagonian-dominated People’s National Movement and the Indo-Trinbagonian-dominated United National Congress. Both dominant political parties used and defended racially charged language in recent elections.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future