THREE children – all TT citizens – who were seeking to leave volcano-hit St Vincent were prevented from boarding the vessel which left for Port of Spain on Wednesday evening.
The minors, between the ages of six and 17, were all travelling alone, but were blanked by Immigration officials after the Ministry of National Security raised concerns about lack of arrangements for parental supervision, while they were in state quarantine in Trinidad.
National Security Minister Stuart Young told Newsday on Thursday, "The Government could not approve minors with no prior arrangements being in place to be brought to TT. The questions were asked as to where were the parents or guardians of these minors and no satisfactory responses were provided.
"It would have been irresponsible to permit minors onto a vessel, with no supervision, and further, no arrangements in place in Trinidad for them to be received by parents or guardians on arrival.”
Covid19 health protocols mandate that everyone entering the country while the international border is closed must go into quarantine for 14 days. After seven days of state quarantine, if they receive a negative PCR test, they will be allowed to complete the remaining seven days' quarantine at home.
Newsday understands that one of the minors, a boy, was going to visit his mother in Trinidad. His relatives in St Vincent accompanied him while he was interviewed by TT and St Vincent immigration officials at the Cruise Ship Complex in Kingstown, St Vincent on Wednesday afternoon.
The MV Galleons Passage arrived in St Vincent on Tuesday afternoon laden with humanitarian aid after the La Soufriere volcano erupted, causing severe damage in the red zone areas and disrupting basic utility services throughout the island.
The boy, who had already boarded the boat on Wednesday evening, was eventually removed by immigration officials.
A few moments earlier, there was a contrasting scene as Trinidadian-Vincentian Carla Questelles was reunited with her 16-year-old daughter Cashany Forde, whom she had not seen since February 2020.
Questelles, a First Citizens employee, told Newsday when she learnt about the humanitarian mission to the volcano-stricken nation and that TT citizens would be repatriated, she asked God to get her on board.
She begged National Security to get her on the vessel because she was very worried about her child, who studies in St Vincent, being in quarantine in Trinidad on her own at one of the local facilities.
She was eventually granted permission and arranged with her employer to get the necessary time off. Although far apart, she and her daughter plan to bond through video calls and movie nights via the internet. She said hugging her daughter in the flesh on board the vessel was worth the trip.
Questelles, who arrived with the Galleons Passage around 5 pm on Tuesday, stayed on the vessel until around 8 pm the following day, when the actual repatriation began.
On seeing her daughter, Questelles pulled her into her arms, hugging her tight and reassuring her, "Everything is gonna be okay."
Questelles said the border closure in March last year made it difficult to see her daughter, and a death in the family put an emotional strain on everyone.
When the La Soufriere volcano blew the day before her daughter's birthday, she was adamant that Cashany had to get out.
Aboard the vessel, several Vincentians expressed happiness to be away from the threat of the volcano, but some were displeased about the 14 days' quarantine required in TT.