This country will offer support and refuge to victims of Caribbean neighbour Dominica which was battered by monster Category 5 Hurricane Maria Tuesday.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley yesterday announced Government will waive immigration regulations for a period of six months, to allow Dominicans to stay in TT while their country rebuilds. Speaking at the post Cabinet press briefing, Rowley said places could be made in this country’s schools for Dominican children to continue their education.
Rowley said he was 13, when Hurricane Flora hit Tobago and as such, knows personally the feeling when faced with utter devastation. While he has not been able to speak directly with Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Rowley said he has been talking to his (Skerrit) office and to Caricom’s secretariat. Noting TT has provided a helicopter and Coast Guard vessel to assist relief efforts in Dominica, Rowley said TT is not in a position to contribute financially.
“In situations like these, whatever we have available to us, we the people have always been generous and are willing to share.” Saying TT has its, “own accommodations” to offer the Dominican people at this time, Rowley said, “For the next six months, TT will open our doors, our homes, our pots and I daresay our schools to the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica.” He said Dominicans must be able to find their way to TT. Once here, Rowley said they must be able to clearly identify friends or family who will be able to accommodate them. Rowley said any citizen who has accommodation and is willing to help provide shelter for Dominicans, arrangements will be made for them to participate in this effort.
The Prime Minister added that any Dominicans choosing to come here over the next six months will not be classified as refugees. “A house is never too small for family and I think that is what’s happening here,” Rowley said.
Also, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said they would be making spaces available to students who were displaced in Dominica.
“When Grenada was hit by Ivan, Trinidad and Tobago Government made available school spaces to a number of students. It is something I have experienced because at that time I was a principle of a secondary school.
“Spaces would be made available however it must be done in consultation of the Ministry of National Security which has responsibility for the Immigration Department so we want to make sure everything is done properly. There are certain parameters that we must work within,” he said.
He said they would ensure that all those who came here would be provided with proper accommodation.
Asked about how teachers would react to having a heavier workload with extra students, Education Minister Anthony Garcia, during a press conference yesterday, said his ministry would engage all stakeholders in this decision. “This ministry has the ultimate responsibility for everything that goes on in education and we will not shirk that responsibility.
“We have decided as a ministry and as a people have been spared the wrath of these two hurricanes that it is our responsibility to assist in whatever way we can. We are thankful to God for sparing us this devastation because a category five hurricane can only spell disaster. There are many families who need assistance and as a responsible ministry we want to do everything possible to lend our hand,” Garcia said
Chief education officer Harrilal Seecharan also asked schools to contribute items, non-perishable foods and cleaning supplies towards relief efforts for Barbuda and Dominica.
“We are targeting from September 26-29 for students to bring in items.
We have put in place a network where items collected at the schools would be taken to a number of collection points,” he said.