TRINIDAD and Tobago nationals stuck abroad have become so desperate to return home that some have attempted to bribe staff at the Ministry of National Security to get preferential treatment in the exemption process.
Now, National Security Minister Stuart Young is warning that this will not be tolerated and anyone attempting to bribe his/her way back to T&T will be reported to the police.
Young was speaking during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference yesterday, where he revealed that ministry staff have been offered bribes.
“We simply don’t work that way in the Ministry of National Security in this exemption process,” Young warned. “If there is any mischief there, please desist. I’ve told them to take the information of persons who are making those offers and we will pass that information to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.”
Young also sought to dispel claims that exemptions were being granted on the basis of political affiliation and PNM supporters were being given preferential treatment.
“There is absolutely no truth to that. That is rejected outright,” Young said.
“It is very irresponsible, but not surprising, for the Opposition and for the Leader of the Opposition to be launching this attack on this process.” Young later made reference to United National Congress (UNC) candidate for Princes Town Barry Padarath, who has been granted an exemption to return.
He said Padarath has received more leeway than any other national.
“He was given a lot of leeway. His daughter, who he is returning with, is not even a national of Trinidad and Tobago, but a decision was taken by the Government to allow MP Padarath that opportunity, whereas other persons, as you are aware, were not allowed,” he said.
Student visas still valid
As for students studying in the United States, Young said there is no need for them to panic about whether their student visas are still valid.
The US government has announced that international students whose institutions have implemented online teaching will be required to return to their home countries.
Young, however, said this is only if schools have implemented a fully online teaching model.
“The student visas continue to be okay in the United States. It is only if a student is now in a situation where all of their courses—every single course, every single credit—is being carried out online, then they’ll be asked to leave the United States,” he said.
He said deportation of students would not be done without notice.
“If there is going to be that happening with the United States and they are going to be deporting any Trinidad and Tobago nationals, they will be in contact with the Government and allow us the opportunity to make the type of arrangements that need to be made,” he said. He advised student visa holders in the US to communicate with their schools to determine if there are changes in their programmes that may affect them.
Young noted that 4,515 people have been granted exemptions to date.
All returning nationals must face mandatory State quarantine, and the Government is trying its best to bring all nationals home in a manner that will not overwhelm the system, Young added.
He said the quarantine capacity will be increased as the Government will now be using another hotel located in Piarco as a quarantine facility.
This will be used for people who opt to pay for their own quarantine. This week, 129 people are set to return from Grenada and Canada.
Nationals in the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East will return soon as well, Young said.