NO stuck or stranded nationals are being denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago at this time said National Security Minister Stuart Young on Tuesday.
Young said those making claims to the contrary were “rabble-rousers, mischief makers and those who want to be relevant.”
Speaking at a media conference at the ministry’s Abercromby Street, head office, Young said those awaiting exemptions were those who might have been living abroad and were now wanting to return home for whatever reason along with those who left TT after the borders were closed and now wanted to return.
Following the "evolution" of the exemption process to an online application, Young said, the numbers of people wanting to come into the country have reduced significantly. He said, when he announced the new system on January 22, there were 8,259 exemptions pending. By February 1, eight days after it became operational, the number of applications reduced to 3,260.
"Where have the 6,088 applications gone?" he asked, adding that those who did not re-apply might have been deferred by the questions asked in the new process rather than their lack of faith or trust in the system.
Young said, of those wanting exemptions to enter, some were people already in TT that wanted to leave later in the year and were applying for exemptions to return in advance.
“Those who were genuinely stuck because, those who went away for a few weeks and got stuck when we closed our borders, they have been repatriated.”
Young added, after that, students were brought home and by October last year, the “the vast majority” of those stuck outside were already repatriated. The rest were later brought in and are being brought home.
Young emphasised that it was not the Government’s position that nationals not be allowed to return. As at January 21, there were 19,941 exemption applications with 11,682 granted. With the new system the exemptions granted rose to 12,338. He could not say how many people actually returned to TT.
"The second day of the online system, I used that as a test to see who are genuinely interested in returning. We are not dealing with tens of thousands stuck outside of TT. The vast majority have been returned."
Of the 490 farm workers who went to Canada, so far 257 have returned with the remaining 229 opting to remain in Canada, even after they applied for and were granted exemptions. The outstanding number of exemptions to be granted is left up to availability of quarantine space and flights Young said. He added that the decision by the Canadian Government to place the Caribbean, along with Mexico, on a list of flight destinations that will be suspended until May, will not affect repatriation flights from there.
Young also rubbished claims that he interfered with the Immigration Division’s new computer system. He said the new tiered security would not allow “every man jack” to access immigration information. He added that the plan to upgrade the soft and hardware was not his doing and he had no say on who was allowed access to what type of information.