There’s no way home for a group of Trinidad and Tobago nationals now stranded in Suriname after this country shut down its borders on Sunday in an attempt to control COVID-19 here.
Even as Guardian Media was speaking to Rishi Ramkissoon, one of the 30-plus people stuck in Suriname, they had already received the disappointing message confirming Government was not approving their flight back home.
“We don’t understand,” Ramkissoon, who could only speak via WhatsApp, said.
The 40-year-old, who works in the professional services sector, was carded to return home on Saturday (March 21), the day before the country’s borders were to be closed Sunday.
The group, made up of independent contractors working in the oil and gas sectors in Suriname, is now worried about what would become of them if they can’t return home.
“Trinidad nationals across here are not on vacation. They came on business, working in the oil and gas sectors. A lot of them have families and they are stranded here indefinitely, then when they do get to return, they have to spend a period of self-quarantining, that’s an extended time away from their families,” Ramkissoon argued.
He said the group was willing to comply with whatever measures the Government required as it pertains to quarantining once they could return home.
Ramkissoon claimed none of the 30 had fallen ill nor shown any signs of COVID-19 at this point.
He claimed a Suriname Airways flight was scheduled to fly to T&T empty yesterday to collect its nationals stranded here, after being permitted by the T&T Government and questioned why the T&T nationals marooned in Suriname weren’t allowed to fly back home on that flight at least. He said another special Suriname Airways flight which received the T&T Government’s approval to repatriate Suriname nationals back their country on Sunday was cancelled after the entire flight crew called in sick. Ramkissoon claimed they also unsuccessfully tried to get CAL to fly into Suriname due to its closed borders. However, he noted other airlines like KLM, TIU and FlyAllways were operating flights out. Suriname closed its borders on March 13.
The Chaguanas resident said while the group was lending support to each other, many are worried about how they will survive in a prolonged situation as their money is running out. He said there was also a fear amongst them of not knowing what will happen should they suffer a medical emergency.
“We will not know what to do. We don’t know what rights we have as non-nationals to access care if something should happen. Additionally, there is the language barrier,” Ramkissoon said.
He said while he was not pounding Suriname, its health sector was very “underprivileged.”
Yesterday, however, Minister of National Security Stuart Young reiterated that the country’s borders would remain closed with no exemptions. He said the best thing for nationals stranded in other countries to do at this time was for them to stay where they were.
“Members of the public and people looking on, when we say that we’ve closed our borders, we’ve closed our borders. I continue to get a number of requests from persons who are outside asking for exemptions, all sorts of requests. At this stage our borders remain closed,” Young said.
Young said while he had the authority to grant exemptions, he will do so only in the most crucial of circumstances on a case-by-case basis and in most cases such exemptions will be restricted to COVID-related operations and medical personnel helping in the effort.
“Globally airports are closing down, ports are closing down and countries are taking decisions to close their borders. The safest thing for you at this stage is to stay put. The most risky places for the contamination by the COVID virus are international airports, cruises and resorts, according to the medical experts.”