A 21-year-old Trinidadian woman stranded in St Vincent as a result of border closure is pleading to get off the island where the La Soufriere volcano has erupted, causing mass evacuations.
Reached yesterday on behalf of Jael James, National Security Minister Stuart Young told the Express: “I will look into this immediately and have it addressed as well as any other applications from persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
James has been in St Vincent since March 2020. From the southernmost part of the island in Clare Valley, she has witnessed the ash cloud darkening and dirtying its skies, and she is desperate to return home to her family in Trinidad and Tobago.
James told the Express news of the eruptions and evacuations have become a source of anxiety.
The stress of her one-year stay outside of her country, she said, has only been amplified by current events.
“I really want to come home. There is a lot happening here and it has been so long. All I want to do is be reunited with my family. To be honest, on the south of the island there is not much going on in comparison to the rest of the island, but it is very stressful because you don’t know what will happen,” she said.
James left home for St Vincent on March 5, 2020, for a one-month vacation. As the Covid-19 pandemic saw Trinidad and Tobago’s borders being shut to mitigate its spread, she was forced to shelter in place with family.
Depending on the generosity of her family to survive, James attempted to find work and earn a living while stranded. She was, however, unsuccessful and has struggled to maintain herself financially. In addition, James contracted dengue fever in October, due to an outbreak on the island. To date, she said, she has not been able to access proper medical treatment.
With these issues in mind, James applied for an exemption to return to Trinidad and Tobago at least four times. Each of these applications, she said, was met with an automated response from the Ministry of National Security.
Desperate for action, she penned a letter dated September 14, 2020, to Young, asking for assistance.
“I have found myself in great difficulty since I have been separated from my family for this lengthy period. I am unable to support myself financially and provide necessities. Currently, I have fallen ill with dengue fever virus and I’m unable to obtain the proper care and medical assistance I require. Therefore, I am kindly pleading that I be given consideration so I can return back home to Trinidad and be reunited with my family,” she wrote. No response was received, she said.
Bring her home, please!
James’ sister wrote the Express on Thursday night, in the face of the imminent eruption of the volcano.
The note stated: “Even though countless requests were sent for an exemption to return back home to Trinidad she still hasn’t gotten any response. We tried numerous times to get help from Government officials and no help was given. She has no means of supporting herself as jobs are hard to find and employment was restricted by immigration officials upon entry onto the island.
“During this terrible year, she became severely ill with dengue fever during the dengue fever outbreak on the island. We petition again for help so that she can return home in order to seek proper medical attention, yet again no answer. Along with everyone else she tried her best to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic and now the Soufriere volcano is on the verge of eruption. What else must she endure? All she wants is to come home! Please.”
On Thursday, hours before the volcano first erupted, the Ministry of National Security issued a statement indicating its willingness to provide assistance to St Vincent and the Grenadines. The release stated that the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force was placed on standby to provide assistance.
“Minister Young has instructed the acting Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Dexter Francis, to have members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force on standby to provide any assistance to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines that may be necessary.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to monitor the situation and stay in touch with the authorities in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” it said.