FLASHBACK - Trinidadian nationals who returned home from Guyana leave the Piarco International Airport in this photo from late March 2020. (Image: ABRAHAM DIAZ)

AKASH SAMAROO

One group representing T&T nationals who cannot return home due to COVID-19 border restrictions says government should remove the exemption process altogether.

The group, Stranded TT Nationals Abroad, which comprises some 200 nationals in the US who are trying to return home, says they see no reason for the exemption process, calling it cumbersome and inefficient.

In an interview with CNC3’s The Morning Brew, spokeswoman Debra Benskin said several applicants are not even afforded a reply indicating why they were denied.

She says several nationals in the US are now struggling with the cold of winter and some are even homeless. She believes the exemption process is illogical as there already are systems in place for government to grant approvals based on COVID-19 testing.

“[Government] needs to remove the exemption,” Debra Benskin maintains.  “Let them come with a PCR test, expand the quarantine facilities, expand the medical staff and alleviate the situation.”

She added: “You’ve left T&T nationals in danger zones, and they have a higher risk of getting infected the longer they stay in the danger zone.”

And Debra Benskin warns that in the meanwhile, people are capitalising on the plight of stranded Trinis.  In light of that, she argues, Caribbean Airlines and Government could be doing more to absorb the cost of returning home.

“Why is Caribbean Airlines doing that? If you have a ticket to return, why can’t they [Caribbean Airlines] do whatever they do and let them [stranded Trinis] use that ticket when they get the exemption to come home?  Why do they [stranded Trinis] have to further look for funds? To me that is the real virus emerging here—price gouging,” she says.