Weeks before his ailing father lost his battle with Covid-19, 29-year-old Omar pleaded with the Ministry of National Security for one last chance to be reunited. Now struggling to cope with the reality of being stranded in a foreign country while losing a loved one, Omar (who withheld his last name as he feared victimisation) told the Express the last few months have been filled with stress and despair.
Omar has been stranded in Georgetown, Guyana, for the past seven months.
His father, one of Trinidad’s 97 Covid-19 fatalities thus far, passed away in September.
As news of his father’s condition came, he said several calls and letters were sent to the ministry pleading for a chance to see him again. However, with no feedback, he says he has reached a point of exasperation with the lack of a response on the part of the Government.
“He died in September. I begged them, I sent letters, I called to say I just want to see my father for the last time, and no response. It has been really frustrating, I know we probably would not have had a big funeral but I would have loved at least to be there,” he said.
Omar left Trinidad on March 11 to attend the funeral of his late grandmother in Guyana.
Her funeral was held on the day the border closure was announced. With no option but to shelter in place he has depended on the generosity of friends and family to get by.
However, the final-year nursing student said he continues to undergo his fair share of trials, including a robbery, financial deterioration and the stress of completing his final courses without necessary access to a stable internet connection.
“It has been quite stressful. The borders closed in March on the day my grandmother was buried. At that time, I was not thinking about it that much as I thought things would revert to normal in due time.
“Other than the death of my father I would say the most stressful thing was the robbery. People came into the house at 3 a.m. and took absolutely everything. It was the most traumatising experience but in addition to that, there’s so much. I was staying with family but I had to relocate because I overstayed my welcome. I also had to complete my final courses without an Internet connection so I would have to find somewhere else to go on most days to complete schooling,” he said.
According to Omar, he is one of approximately six persons still stranded in Guyana.
Most of these people were those excluded from repatriation efforts earlier this year as they are still awaiting exemptions from the ministry, he said. Even with an exemption, he said the cost of a seat on one of those repatriating flights, (estimated to be US$1,000), would have been too heavy to bear.
Despite applying for an exemption four times since the border closure, he has only received one automatic response acknowledging the request.
“I applied and wrote to them at least four times. The last time I applied was July and since then there has been no response. So far the only response I ever got acknowledging my request was when I e-mailed the Permanent Secretary.
“I even tried applying for the aid they promised through the High Commission, but nothing came of that,” he said.
The combined effects of losing his father while facing this uncertainty, he said, has prompted him to plead for the attention of the ministry.
“Please, if anyone who can help sees this, please think of your citizens in Guyana. We are here and we are desperate,” he said.
Young on repatriation
Minister of National Security Stuart Young indicated at a news conference last week that the Government intended to speed up the process of repatriating nationals in the upcoming weeks. Flights from the US, the UK, Jamaica and Barbados were announced.
“What has happened since the Prime Minister announced that we were to repatriate on a quicker modality is we actually now have a fairly stable rotation taking place.
“Flights from the United States every ten days rotate between New York and Miami. We have also been running a number of flights through our state airline, Caribbean Airlines from Barbados.
“Persons have been making their way to Barbados and we are repatriating them back from Barbados. We have also been doing some flights from other countries like Jamaica and other countries where we’ve brought back persons,” he said.