ELIZABETH GONZALES AND GREVIC ALVARADO
NATIONALS stranded in Margarita for over four months are set to return home on Friday. Representatives of Rutaca Airlines, confirmed this information through a statement forwarded via WhatsApp to the stranded Trinis, who have been in Margarita since February.
At a press conference in May, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said government granted the group in Venezuela, and another group of nationals in Guyana, exemptions to return to Trinidad. On Wednesday, Young said 29 nationals are expected to return to TT on a Rutaca Airlines flight which in turn will take 115 Venezuelans from TT back to their homeland.
Young said he will not get involved in travel arrangements and nationals with exemptions to return were told to find their way home at their own cost.
The airline said the first flight from Caracas to Margarita will depart at 9 am, and the departure from Margarita to Piarco Airport is scheduled for 10.40 am.
Trinis in Venezuela contracted private company Krystal Tours, which in turn contractedRutaca Airlines to charter a plane to transport those stranded in Margarita. Each person had to pay Krystal Tours US$1,000 for the flight. Passengers were told to be at the airport three hours before departure and to pay all relevant taxes.
On Monday, the Twitter account of the Maiquetia international airport in Caracas confirmed that Venezuelan airspace will reopen on June 12, according to the guidelines of the Venezuelan government.
President of Venezuela's Association of Airlines Humberto Figuera acknowledged that international travel from his country will probably be reopened some time in July. Rutaca Airlines would have had to obtain a special permit to be able to repatriate the Trinidadians.
Venezuela's Ambassador to TT Carlos Pérez, in an interview with Newsday, reported that the air and maritime borders in his country continue to be closed due to covid19 restrictions and to his knowledge, there is no specific date for people to return to Venezuela.
"There are permits that depend on the Ministry of Health and the Central Government of Venezuela according to the number of cases of covid19 there. As long as they do not authorise (temporary reopening of the borders), there will be no repatriation flights," he said.
The ambassador acknowledged the anguish Venezuelans in TT may feel on being unable to return to their country, but asked that they understand the ongoing covid19 situation which necessitates the continued closure of Venezuela's air, land and sea borders.
He said the embassy currently manages two lists of Venezuelans wanting to return home.
“We have a list of people who approached the embassy to report that they want to return home for various reasons, and that figure is 160 people, and we have a second list of people who have tickets to return to Venezuela, numbering 24, but who are stranded by TT's borders being closed," Pérez said.