Professor Alana Belcon

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A Trinidad and Tobago professor trapped in the United States as a result of closed borders, has started a Facebook tread seeking to get help for a group of 45 nationals longing to return to this country.

Dr Alana Belcon, who has been teaching at the University of Redlands, California, said she was experiencing anxiety as her contract is about to end on May 30.

She said that beyond this expiration date, there are no provisions in place by US authorities to accommodate her further.

Belcon said she reached out to the T&T consulate in the US which advised she should apply for an extension of stay with the US Government in case the T&T borders don’t reopen before her visa expires.

However, Belcon explained such an application is costly—demanding US$455, which she said she couldn’t currently afford.

“America has made no concession for persons who are trapped in their country because their various countries’ borders have been closed. When you go to their website, they say we know that people might be having problems going home because of COVID-19, but they have done nothing to adjust the process or the price,” lamented Belcon.

In addition, Belcon’s health insurance which gave her access to healthcare while teaching in the US, expires on May 31, leaving her in without health insurance in the middle of a pandemic.

The Arima native formed a Facebook group last Monday called ‘Trinis Trying To Go Home’ and immediately other stranded T&T nationals joined the group in hope together, they could find a way home.

Belcon said, she had a glimmer of hope when it was announced by the T&T Government two Saturdays ago, the start of the ease of restrictions over a six-phase period, in which it was stated consideration might be given to ease some border restrictions by May 15.

However, when it was subsequently announced borders would remain closed, Belcon said she contacted the T&T Embassy early to find out if they would be able to guide T&T nationals stranded in the US who needed to get home.

She said it was then that she turned to Facebook.

“Yesterday, about 45 of us submitted a group exemption application to the Trinidad government,” said Belcon.

She noted, not everyone who had joined the group who are Trinidadians in the US, was in a position where they needed an exemption.

She said among the 45, three persons had children under the age of one.

She said there was a family in the group who had done fundraisers and other events to get money in T&T to take their sick child to the US who needed treatment for a debilitating disease and now they were stranded in the US for two months with no money.

Guardian Media was also able to reach out to a member in the group based in Ft Lauderdale.

Nicholas Ramcharitar who works in the energy sector said he was on his way to the airport in Saudi Arabia on March 14 to catch a flight when he received an email from the airline notifying him that Saudi Arabia had closed its borders.

It has only been a few days since he arrived in Ft Lauderdale, but he described being trapped in Saudi Arabia as being in exile.

He told Guardian Media he just wanted to get home, mostly to be with his family.