A WOMAN from East Dry River, Port of Spain, is challenging the government’s border policy after she was left stranded in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in March.
Takesiha Clairmont said she suffered a miscarriage while at the airport in Tortola on March 22, hoping to get a flight to Barbados so that she could return home before Trinidad and Tobago's borders closed.
Her application for leave to challenge the Health Minister’s decision to close the air and maritime borders as part of the public health coronavirus regulations, at midnight on March 22, comes up for hearing on Friday before Justice Kevin Ramcharan.
Clairmont is also seeking constitutional relief and compensation.
Her application said she went to the BVI in January because her brother was having kidney surgery. She went to help him with post-operative care.
Clairmont was expected to return on March 27, and had a confirmed pre-booked return ticket to TT. She said in her application that on March 21, she watched the Health Ministry’s media briefing, at which the National Security Minister announced the border closure.
She said that same day, she went to the airport in hopes of getting a flight to TT but was told to return the next day. She did so, but was told she would get a flight to Barbados, but it would be impossible to get one from Barbados to TT before the borders close.
While at the airport she began feeling sick and felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She went to the bathroom, where she miscarried. She was taken to the hospital and was told she had been three and a half months pregnant.
The application said she has suffered bouts of depression because she has been unable to return home. Her husband, the lawsuit says, had to leave his job to stay home to care for their eight children.
She elicited help from former St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar and said between April 24-July/August, she has sent several e-mails asking for an exemption to return to TT.
Clairmont also sent several messages to National Security Minister Stuart Young on his phone pleading for help. She also joined a WhatsApp group called Citizens Overseas for assistance.
On August 20, she received a message from Young that he would grant her an exemption.
She was also told she had to provide information on how she planned to secure a flight and that she would have to pay for quarantine for 14 days at the Hyatt Regency, Chancellor or Cascadia Hotels. The lawsuit said, on average, she would have to spend $33,000, which she did not have.
A GoFundMe account was set up with the help of the WhatsApp group and she was able to raise money for a flight to Barbados. She was also told of repatriation flights from Barbados to TT, but said when she called Caribbean Airlines, her name was not on the flight list.
Clairmont vented her frustration on Facebook and shortly after allegedly received a message from Young that her name had been put on a repatriation flight list.
She returned to TT on September 13, and was quarantined at the Home of Football in Couva and discharged siix days later.
In her lawsuit, Clairmont said she suffered “great distress” because of the ordeal.
The lawsuit also alleges that the border closure regulation was in breach of the public health ordinance and the Immigration Act, as it breached Clairmont’s rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of movement and not to be arbitrarily exiled.
“There is no lawful justification and/or authority for the closure of our borders via regulations and/or the denial of entry of the claimant or any other citizen of the Republic of TT who had, at all material times, tested negative for covid19…The interference with fundamental rights is also disproportionate.
“…there are other powers available to deal with isolating or quarantining citizens whilst tests are done. To leave them stranded abroad for months on end is arbitrary, cruel and unnecessary. The closure of the borders via Regulations is unconstitutional and illegal.
“Furthermore, it is a draconian measure that, if it was to be justified at all, required direct legislative intervention via an Act of Parliament. This measure impacted upon and/or breached the aforesaid fundamental rights of the claimant and all citizens who have been stranded overseas since the borders were closed.”
The claim also said that since thousands of citizens remain stranded abroad, Clairmont’s claim was of extreme public importance and urgency.
“The horror stories and traumatic ordeals these citizens have been forced to endure are well documented in numerous media articles and interviews,” it added.
Clairmont is represented by a battery of lawyers including Anand Ramlogan, Alvin Pariagsingh, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alana Rambaran and Ganesh Saroop.