Some Indo-Trinidad and Tobago nationals stranded in Barbados are of the view they are being rejected from entering this country because of their race.
Reached in Barbados yesterday via telephone, spokesperson for the group of 33 nationals, Phillip Ramdial, said the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government facilitated the entry of 68 nationals who went on a cruise organised by PNM Senator Augustus Thomas, but shut the door on 33 people who also went on a cruise and are currently in Barbados because of the mercy and humanitarian intervention of the Barbados government.
The majority of the group left Trinidad on February 27 for Dubai for a cruise on the Indian Ocean. Whilst sailing, the coronavirus outbreak became a global problem and they were forced to dock in Cape Town, South Africa.
The group made a desperate bid to journey home, flying from South Africa to Dubai to London and then to Barbados.
They arrived in Barbados on March 23, a day after the Trinidad and Tobago Government closed the borders.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said then he told the Barbados government that this country’s borders were closed and the Trinidadians therefore could not come home.
The Barbados government, headed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, took the humanitarian decision to keep the group in Barbados, but they had to undergo a mandatory 14 days of quarantine.
That quarantine period ended on Monday, and the group was given a certificate of clearance by the Barbados Health Ministry.
Last Sunday, Barbados’ Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic announced the group had been cleared of any symptoms of the coronavirus.
The group therefore thought they would now be able to return to Trinidad, but were again rejected, with Young saying they must be tested for COVID-19.
Ramdial, 74, said yesterday it appears the group is being treated in such a manner because they are mostly Indo-Trinidadians.
“I think it’s because of the ethic divide. We have started thinking that it must be the ethnic divide. They have all the information—names, passport numbers, address, everything they need to get, but it is because of that ethnic divide. I didn’t want to think that but, sorry, I have to say that. These people are vindictive and wicked, very nasty, and to say they don’t know, they damn well know,” he said.
“To be honest, we are 33 in number, two of the group are of African descent,” he added.
“I don’t know who is boss, whether it is Mr Stuart Young or Dr Keith Rowley. I’m not sure because I like Dr Rowley, and I cannot understand how he could allow this to happen,” he continued.
He pointed out other countries in the world went through great efforts to repatriate their citizens, but Trinidad and Tobago has shunned its own.
Ramdial said it is very clear there’s discrimination when you look at how the other group of cruisers was treated.
Thomas, a temporary PNM senator and president of Works Credit Union, had organised the seven-day Caribbean cruise.
The cruisers, mostly elderly people, were stranded in Guadeloupe and arrangements were made for them to take a special flight to Trinidad.
They were then immediately taken from Piarco International Airport to Balandra. Forty-nine of the 68 tested positive for the virus and some members from the group have died.
Ramdial said his group are also elderly persons, but they’re virus-free.
“We were quarantined and certified virus-free from the Barbados government. Our Trinidad and Tobago Government said we must be tested before they give us the permit to re-enter to the country,” he said.
He said there was no word on any test kits from Trinidad.
He said the Barbados government has its own people to look after and have to watch its resources.
Ramdial said Cuban doctors and nurses are also in Barbados to lend assistance.
“We are cleared of all viruses and any symptoms; bring us home, carry out your tests, we agree; put us in quarantine again, we agree, but they not doing that. They said they sending the test kits…so Barbados must now find manpower and lab and so on to do that for another country?” he asked.
“We are virus-free, but you want to test us as delay tactics to keep us out of the country; suffer them little fellows. This is how we look at it,” he said, adding no one from the group has any symptoms.
Ramdial said the rejection the group faced on Wednesday was heart-breaking.
“The opportunity to be in Tobago yesterday (Wednesday) was most disturbing. That Condor airline came to Barbados and all arrangements were made with the Barbados government to pick us up and take us so we can go to Tobago,” he said.
“It was at no cost to the Trinidad and Tobago Government; the Condor airline was bringing us for free through arrangements made by the Barbados government,” he added
“The Barbados government is trying their best; they are accommodating us in the country, and I must praise Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the hotel that is extending a hand to us, but at a cost,” he said.
However, he lamented that funds were running low.
“This is the third week we are in Barbados paying a hotel (Sugar Cane Club Hotel & Spa). We cannot afford to buy the meals at the hotel; we have a little kitchenette and we prepare something as the days go by, but the funds are running out,” he said.
Ramdial pleaded with Rowley to intervene.
He said they are willing to be tested and undergo further quarantine, but they simply want to return home to Trinidad. (Trinidad Express)