IN SPITE of a decision by government to keep the borders closed, 30 nationals stranded in Suriname have appealed to the President, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to temporarily re-open the borders and let them in.
The nationals, who said they are all in good health, were working with various contractors in that country when the covid19 virus started spinning out of control. They said they were willing to subject themselves to the 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
The wife of one of the people trapped said some of them had accommodation and a per diem as part of their contractual arrangement while their salaries were deposited in their TT bank accounts.
However, with the projects closed, no work, no pay and no money to pay rent, those citizens who did not have that arrangement may soon find themselves out on the streets.
In addition, the woman said the prices of food items kept rising every day and there was fear of an imminent food shortage.
In a letter sent via WhatsApp addressed to President Paula Mae Weekes, Dr Rowley and Kamla Persad-Bissessar, one of the men wrote, “Kindly re-open our borders with a specific time frame and allow us, the nationals of TT stranded in Suriname to come home.”
The man who left earlier this year and had a valid return ticket for April 1, said when the seriousness of the situation started sinking in he and others attempted to catch a flight back home, but the Suriname border had closed. When Suriname re-opened its borders TT had closed theirs so they found themselves in a very dicey situation.
He said they had been in touch with the TT consulate, and the Surinamese government was willing to assist them in leaving. He said the Suriname airline was willing to make the flight and that their plight had been highlighted in that country’s media.
He said he understood government had a job to do to protect citizens, but appealed, “We just want to come home.”
Minister of National Security Stuart Young responded to questions about the group at a Ministry of Health press conference on Wednesday.
"There is some misinformation being carried out there, particularly in social media, with regard to the people in Suriname. On Saturday I as Minister of National Security sent very clear instructions very early, on Saturday night and very early on Sunday morning to Suriname Airways that they could bring our nationals home because we had not yet locked our borders.
"Suriname Airways was unable to carry their flight on Sunday because they could not find a crew. So the suggestion that the government somehow prevented it is completely untrue and I would like to correct that."
However, the citizen stranded in Suriname offered solutions for government to consider including contacting all the heads of consulates and embassies, if they have not already done so, to get a true number of nationals in each country and liaise with then to work out some arrangements with respect to housing and feeding nationals.
He also detailed a plan for consideration by both health and national security ministries in this unprecedented period that after confirming bona fide ticket holders and airlines which would facilitate flights, hotels in the Piarco area that are presently closed can be prepared to house returning nationals.
He suggested that on arrival and point of disembarking, the corridors can be secured with medical and army personnel so established protocols can be observed
“I pray my solution is accepted and approved by my government and put into action within the next three days,” he wrote.