Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) David Comissiong has chided some regional governments for refusing to accept stranded citizens, which has placed an unnecessary burden on the social welfare systems of other governments and local non-profit organizations.
He voiced the criticism as President of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH) Kemar Saffrey noted that a growing number of CARICOM citizens and other non-nationals have been seeking shelter after falling prey to homelessness.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Comissiong stressed that he did not want to criticize specific countries, but admitted that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been approaching his office repeatedly to seek help getting home.
That is because of the Dr Keith Rowley-led government’s closed border policy that is even extended to citizens, due to increasing cases of COVID-19.
“All we can do is to inform their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but other than that there is not much more that we can do. In this particular case, it is just up to the Trinidad Foreign Affairs Ministry to give permission, or through them, seek permission from the Ministry of National Security for those nationals to return home,” he added.
Back in April, 33 Trinidadians on route to Port of Spain from the United Kingdom were forced to spend weeks in Barbados after their return flight was refused entry at Piarco International Airport. They were only allowed to land after National Security Minister Stuart Young granted special permission.
Instead of blaming a specific CARICOM government, Comissiong called for member states to adopt the Mia Mottley-led administration’s model, which is committed to accepting all Barbadian citizens.
“Let me put it this way: I fully support and endorse the position taken by Barbados where we have said a citizen of Barbados is our responsibility; they are one of us, they belong to us, and we will be accepting them, we will be facilitating their return home, and we will not be closing our borders to any Barbadian citizen. And, if they return home with a COVID-19 infection, we will take care of them,” he declared.
“I think this is the correct position and I don’t want to judge any CARICOM member state. But I just want to say that, for me, the position taken by the Barbados Government is the correct position and the position I fully support and I wish that that were the common position right across the Caribbean Community.”
Comissiong’s comments followed a tour of the BAEH’s Homeless Shelter at Spry Street, Bridgetown, where he made a donation to founder and president Saffrey.
Saffrey described the last few months as a “trying time” in which many more non-nationals have been asking for assistance with lodging, as well as with securing special permission from their governments to return home.
“They are coming and we have seen people from as far as Haiti, Guyana and Jamaica. There have been US citizens as well coming here and seeking to use our shelters, and not all of the persons that have come are accustomed to shelters or rules about where you have to sleep and where you can’t sleep and what time you have to get up. That is pulling on the society as well, but we understand the situation and we understand the times,” he told reporters.