Hundreds of Trinidadians in Barbados and other parts of the world are facing a humanitarian crisis that is being blamed on their Government’s refusal to open the country’s borders.
Shara Graham, who is Barbados’ Coordinator for the group T&T Citizens Overseas revealed that scores of citizens from the twin-island republic are finding themselves at the mercy of charitable organisations, public-spirited businesses and generous residents.
The group was formed on various social media platforms to assist stranded citizens trying to get home. The platform is also being used to help those displaced access food, shelter and healthcare until they can be repatriated.
“Our ultimate goal is to get everyone home. We believe that everyone who resides in Trinidad should be allowed to go home. We believe that if that cannot happen, they should be provided with financial assistance, because these people are not working,” Graham told Barbados TODAY.
In a recent Barbados TODAY interview, Caricom Community (CARICOM) Ambassador David Comissiong also raised concern about the growing number of cases that have been landing on his desk.
“Several Trinidadians continue to have this problem, several of them have come to my attention and we try to help wherever we can,” the ambassador revealed.
Among those currently receiving assistance from the informal group is a 19-year-old woman who has been housed at the Paragon Army Base for more than a month after being denied entry on a CAL repatriation flight. Since then, the young woman has been added to a massive Whatsapp group chat that includes dozens of stranded citizens, and efforts are being made to secure her seat on the next flight home.
But according to Graham, others have been relying on the goodwill of others.
“Some people, out of the kindness of their hearts, decide to help pay for somebody’s plane ticket back or send money on Western Union to help pay for people’s groceries. Here as well, there are certain charitable organisations who have been very helpful and there are some business places that have been helpful in providing accommodation. Some of them include the Red Cross, another one is Living Waters and a branch of the Rotary Club of Barbados assisted as well,” Graham explained.
At present, the Keith Rowley administration is facilitating periodic “repatriation flights” out of Miami, New York, Toronto and Barbados.
But according to Graham, who is a Grenadian assisting in Barbados, Trinidadians as far away as Dubai, Australia and Europe are among those running out of money as they seemingly wait in vain.
In some cases, persons in desperate need of healthcare are said to have passed away as they could not afford to pay. Among the heart-wrenching stories is that of diabetic who was said to have been surviving on bananas and bread to balance his insulin. He eventually died.
“This has not started to happen here, but in other countries, there are people living in homeless shelters, there are people staying with strangers, there are people staying in extremely vulnerable situations, abusive situations, there are people who are living without the type of medication that they need,” Graham told Barbados TODAY.
“It is a humanitarian crisis…. There is no exact date as to when people will be allowed back into their country, so they are frustrated, they are angry, they are upset. Some people are depressed, some are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” she further explained.
Those who make it to Barbados through the United Kingdom are finding themselves waiting on a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight costing between US$300 and $400. To board the flight, passengers require special permission from the T&T government.
Just days ago, a mother of eight, who was left stranded abroad for almost six months, lost her constitutional lawsuit against the State over the border closures. The stress associated with the woman’s situation has been blamed for her suffering a miscarriage.
Barbados TODAY’s efforts to reach Trinidad’s Minister of National Security Stuart Young have been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Ambassador Comissiong declared “Barbadians should be extremely proud of our government and the manner in which our government has conducted itself throughout this entire ordeal, and not only in relation to citizens of Barbados,” he declared.
“Our government has treated our citizens with the utmost respect and our government has recognised that the home country has an overriding responsibility to the citizens to be conscious of the welfare of the citizens and to welcome the citizens back home under virtually any circumstances.” ([email protected])