Immigration officers are upset that Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, has been granted approval to go on vacation leave, while the division is grappling with a number of officers testing Covid positive.
The Express was informed that Gandhi-Andrews has also been granted an exemption from National Security Minister Stuart Young to fly out of Trinidad.
The number of Covid-positive Immigration officers has increased from 11 to 14. Speaking on condition of anonymity, officers said four of the five shifts have been affected.
At present, they said, only two officers were on duty at Piarco International Airport on Sunday.
The Express was told, that all of the officers who contracted Covid were processing arriving passengers at the Piarco South Terminal before they contracted the virus.
Although Young said adequate resources in terms of PPE (personal protective equipment) have been provided to the Immigration Division, the officers said this is “grossly inadequate” and officers are left without protective gear.
The officers claimed persons in authority (name provided) have been telling officers that they do not see the need for them to get PPE to discharge their functions. They further claimed that an administrative officer II (name provided), who is responsible for distributing PPE, has not been responding to their requests for the equipment.
“The PPE at the airport is currently depleted,” said an officer.
“A person on the only active shift has displayed symptoms and is awaiting results for the Covid test and the officers were advised that all of them need to be tested as a matter of urgency,” said the officer.
“To date neither Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews nor Derek Craigwell (acting deputy chief of Immigration), have contacted the affected officers to enquire about their well-being, but instead are feeding misleading information to the PS (permanent secretary) and minister,” said an officer.
The source said some officers have experienced breathing problems.
“Officers are concerned for their families, since all officers have to handle sensitive documents such as station diaries, receipt books, travel documents, etc, which may be contaminated,” stated another officer.
“The Airports Authority used to provide cleaning services sporadically. Since the Immigration Officer IV wrote to Airports Authority, the cleaning takes place a little more regularly, but not as often as it should under the circumstances,” the officer added. The Express sent questions to Gandhi-Andrews but there was no response.