THE wife and children of an ex-senator will on Friday begin a race against time to travel from Africa to Europe to the Americas within 24 hours, along the way dodging the global pandemic and the effects of a spew of tonnes of airborne ash from a Vincentian volcano.
Taharqa Obika on Tuesday told Newsday of his relief and gratitude that the Ministry of National Security had on Monday approved a visa for his Togo-born wife to return to Trinidad, on top of her exemption from TT's ongoing border lockdown against covid19.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young in an e-mail on Monday evening told Newsday, “I have been informed that the visas for Mr Obika’s family have been issued and e-mailed in accordance with the process.”
Mrs Obika was finishing an economics degree in Togo with her children when she got stranded by TT's border closure, a point Obika vented on social media a fortnight ago, following which Young had pledged to try to help repatriate all TT nationals stuck in Africa.
However on Monday, Obika complained on social media about delays by the Immigration Division in granting his wife a visa despite her having got a covid19 exemption.
He told Newsday the exemption was not open-ended but rather granted one-off permission to enter TT on a specific CAL repatriation flight from Barbados on Friday at 6.55 pm. His appeals on social media had been forwarded to Young, even as Obika had also contacted acting Chief Immigration Officer Derek Craigwell, and by Monday evening Mrs Obika had a visa.
On Tuesday, Obika was glad for the progress but did not know if volcano ash over Barbados might affect the BA flight bringing his family from London and/or the flight from Barbados to Trinidad. "Everything is after God. With the volcano if there's a difficulty, BA might decant their passengers in Antigua."
Mrs Obika is now in Ghana preparing to go to the UK and then Barbados. "On Thursday she will fly to Heathrow. She'll land in London on Friday morning at dawn and then she will leave London at midday. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed as they pass through the eye of the needle," Obika said.
"A couple of people reached out to me on the African continent, thanking me for raising the issue. They are on the repatriation flight because of my insistence."