Over two dozen Jamaican students running low on money and supplies are feeling like forgotten citizens as they plead with authorities in Kingston to assist them in a last-ditch effort to get home.
The 26 students, whose return tickets on Caribbean Airlines were cancelled due to national shutdowns, are also hoping that flights bound for Bridgetown and Kingston to repatriate stranded Trinidadian students could assist in taking them home as well.
Failing that, the struggling students are hoping the Andrew Holness administration will assist them with a US$37,000 (US $1400 per student) return charter to the land of wood and water on a private regional carrier.
Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Bridgetown, Ella Hoyos has however given no indication that Kingston is willing to foot the bill. Instead, she insisted that Caribbean Airlines has not been making arrangements to fulfill their contractual obligations to the paying customers.
President of the Guild of Students Thacher Loutin – who has been speaking on the students’ behalf told Barbados TODAY she had exhausted all reasonable effort to secure assistance or representation from officials in Kingston, whose citizens are facing severe hardship.
“We have not been hearing anything from the Jamaican government and we don’t feel as though they care about us on this side. They are bringing in people from the United States and from all over, but yet still, they forgot about the stranded Jamaicans that are in Barbados,” the dejected Jamaican disclosed.
“We watched as the Bahamian Government sent for their students. Trinidad now is making plans to take in their students and to go for the students in Jamaica, but here we are, 50 minutes from Trinidad and we cannot get home,” Loutin added.
Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Stuart Young on Monday revealed that students in Jamaica and Barbados would be allowed to enter the southern Caribbean country’s ‘closed borders’ aboard a special Caribbean Airlines flight.
An exhausted Loutin even hopes the Mia Mottley administration would alert Jamaican authorities of their need to intervene on their behalf.
“It doesn’t make any sense if a Caribbean Airlines flight leaving from Trinidad to pick up the Trinidadian students at UWI Mona and students in Jamaica and leaving us here. We want to go on that flight or as soon as possible. The stranded including those who aren’t students need to go home… We are just two hours away from Jamaica. They need to show some care for citizens in the Caribbean countries who need to come home as well,” she implored.
When asked to comment on the situation, the Honorary Consul told Barbados TODAY her office has reached out to as many Jamaicans as possible and is actively providing assistance with accommodation arrangements for persons in need.
Hoyos would make no comment on Jamaica’s willingness to subsidise the over US$30,000 for the charter flight on Fly One Caribbean airline. Instead, the Honorary Consul is seeking answers from Caribbean Airlines officials, which has not refunded the students’ cancelled tickets and is making little effort to repatriate them.
“They just continue to confirm for me that Trinidad’s borders remain closed until the end of June and I have been informing them that that is not feasible for people who are at the end of their resources and have no accommodation or basic supplies. They are placing the students in a very precarious position, and I have conveyed that to Caribbean Airlines and I have asked what they are willing to do,” Hoyos revealed.
“Are they willing to buy a ticket to bring them home? Are they willing to refund them the unused portion of their ticket so they can go home? But I have heard nothing,” she added.
Loutin meanwhile indicated that numerous other Jamaicans unable to reach authorities for assistance have been turning to her for representation.
Among them is one woman, who told Barbados TODAY that she arrived weeks ago for an interview in the pursuit of a management position at a local hotel and has been stuck ever since Caribbean Airlines grounded its flights in mid-March.
Unable to pay an ever-increasing Airbnb accommodation bill, the longtime hospitality worker fears she will soon have nowhere to go with numerous emails and telephone calls to officials in Barbados and Jamaica going unanswered.
“I don’t feel like they really care about us and they are saying ‘you can die if you want’. Even though we have no food or anywhere to stay you are on your own. That is how we feel right now,” she explained.
The “abandoned” Jamaicans have already filled out online immigration forms requesting a June 15 date of return, which would allow students to complete their exams instead of having to do so from Jamaica’s quarantine facilities.
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