Trinidad and Tobago began to experience the phased easing of COVID-19 public health restrictions in May 2020, with restaurants and food vendors being allowed to operate takeaway and delivery services from May 15 and the construction and manufacturing sectors being reopened on May 21, 2020. Many refugees and asylum-seekers however remained in a state of heightened vulnerability, with reduced access to basic needs, employment and shelter, as many sectors of the economy remained closed. Eviction from places of residence remained a serious threat as loss of income left many unable to make rent payments. The use of negative coping mechanisms given inadequate social assistance available to this population remains a concern.
Attempts to access territory via irregular means were also noted.
UNHCR Trinidad and Tobago Operation continued to provide protection assistance for refugees and asylumseekers during this period while taking steps to safely reestablish physical presence at UNHCR premises. Refocused protection operations continue with the implementation of expanded community communication channels and a pivot towards more community-based protection operations. UNHCR returned to its premises on 26 May and reopened its reception area on 1 June to persons with appointments and emergency cases. We also continue to schedule and meet with refugees and asylum-seekers virtually, an activity that was launched at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.