UK Member of Parliament Steve Baker has issued an appeal to the Trinidad and Tobago Government to repatriate its citizens stranded in the United Kingdom.
Speaking in the UK Parliament yesterday, Baker, the MP for Wycombe, said there are T&T citizens in his constituency who have been depleting their savings as they await repatriation. (See page 9)
T&T’s borders have been closed since the end of March and thousands of citizens who were caught outside when it went into effect have been appealing for an exemption to come home.
While the repatriation process is ongoing, many of those who are stranded say it is not going quickly enough as some have been stranded for over six months.
Baker, when given his opportunity to put questions to the ministers from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), asked what was being done to assist T&T citizens stranded in the UK.
“I’ve got Trinidad and Tobago residents or citizens in my constituency burning through their savings really terrified about failing to get home to protect their homes and businesses from approaching severe weather. Can I ask the minister to join me in calling on Trinidad and Tobago to make sure their citizens get home, I think it’s our common humanity to enable people to return home to protect their homes,” Baker said.
In response, Wendy Morton, Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas at the FCDO, advised stranded citizens to contact the T&T High Commissioner in London.
“The FCDO has alerted the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission to cases of stranded Trinidad and Tobago nationals that we have been made aware of and supported affected individuals to contact the High Commission directly. It is also important to say that we are in regular contact with our counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago,” Morton said.
Founder of the T&T Citizens Overseas group, Gary Mahabir, in an interview yesterday, said he was not surprised the issue was raised in the UK Parliament. Mahabir said since the lockdown there had been no repatriation flights from England to T&T, adding he has been trying to direct stranded nationals to Barbados hoping the Government would provide repatriation flights from there. He said those who were stranded got no assistance from this country’s foreign missions.
“The consulates can’t guarantee assistance and what made it very chaotic was that our foreign missions were not helpful,” Mahabir said.
Mahabir said the time had run out for many citizens, some of whom are now homeless, depressed and on the verge of giving up.
“This is an emergency situation, we need to put politics, anything else aside and come together. Why can’t elected officials come off their thrones and assist the people? They are paid to this, I would like the people in Trinidad to become more conscious of what is happening to our people, people went on vacation with limited amounts of money and they have no source whatsoever of income, our people are suffering.”
Mahabir has spent the last several months lobbying government ministers and the media to highlight the plight of the stranded citizens. He said recently, he stopped trying to contact National Security Minister Stuart Young and began instead sending his emails and pleas to the Office of the Prime Minister.
“I have become sort of an unofficial ambassador for people stranded all over the world. I can’t give anyone an exemption and I am not a rich person but I cannot just let my fellow citizens starve and suffer outside without trying to do everything I can to get them home,” Mahabir said.