Homesick UK resident, 81, feels 'stuck' in Tobago

A British Airways aircraft at the Piarco International Airport in March last year. -
A British Airways aircraft at the Piarco International Airport in March last year. -

UK resident Anthony White, 81, came to Tobago in March 2020 for a vacation.

Seventeen months and a pandemic later, he feels more like a prisoner than a visitor.

In an interview with Newsday on Monday, White said he is desperate to return to his home country.

“I have been visiting the island since 1999. I have a partner here, so I am a regular visitor – but I normally come here for three or four months and go home. That’s fine, but I’ve really never experienced this length of stay in this island.”

He said after he arrived in Tobago, approximately ten days later the Government closed the borders.

Although the international borders were officially closed, a number of repatriation flights were permitted to allow foreigners to leave. Former British High Commissioner to TT Tim Stew, on his Twitter account last year, reported that British Airways repatriation flights would be available on March 23, 24 and 26, "thanks to the TT Government."

The UK Government later organised repatriation flights on June 3 and 4.

But White chose to stay, not thinking the pandemic would last almost two years.

“I had only just arrived, and I thought of taking it, but then I thought no, because I had come here to see my partner and then the other thing – I had no idea how absolutely serious this whole thing was.”

Since then he has been coping through the various lockdowns and a state of emergency, which was recently extended to November.

“I feel as if I am in an open prison, which as you may understand is hugely depressing.”

He added: “Being 81, I like a smooth ride. I get worried with the feeling that nothing is really going on, so it’s really, really difficult.”

Additionally, currently TT is on the red list for entering England.

“This results in when I finally leave this island, I will have to endure a rigid quarantine in a London hotel for ten days, at a cost of over £2,000 (approximately TT$19,000). The fact that I have had two AstraZeneca jabs makes no difference.

"I don’t really have that (money), but they don’t seem to care – they just said, 'Well, those are the regulations.'”

He said he has tried several times to contact the British High Commission to assist in repatriating him, but these attempts proved futile.

“I have written things to them on their website and they just say the usual thing: 'We’ll get back to you.'

"This has now been going on for about three weeks and I felt that I shouldn’t just accept this, so I’ve written to the Foreign Secretary who is obviously in charge of all these high commissions on a whole.”

But in a response to questions from Newsday on Monday, the British High Commission said it informed White about the repatriation flights last year and "provided consular assistance to him."

The commission said the UK government has no plans to arrange any further charter flights to the UK.

"As Mr White will be aware, commercial flights are now available to travel from Trinidad to the UK since the government reopened its borders on 17 July...Mr White should contact his local travel agent to explore commercial travel options. Our priority remains providing tailored consular assistance to those British nationals overseas that need our help the most. British nationals requiring emergency consular assistance while in T&T can call our consular team 24/7 at +1868 350 0444."

White said the situation has left him depressed.

"Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I feel that I am not going to be able to get home – that’s a very dark thought. It's incredibly depressing because I am really doing nothing here – it really does feel as if I am stuck in Goodwood, kind of marooned. I really don’t see any kind of resolution at the moment.”

White is also worried about being infected with covid19.

“The fear I have is that I might catch this covid19 and end up in that Scarborough Hospital, and I feel very insecure in a hospital like that. The only place I want to be if I have to get it is where I live, because I have a fair amount of confidence in the doctors, but here I have absolutely zero confidence in the Scarborough Hospital and all that it offers or doesn’t offer.

"It's just a feeling of great insecurity, that is how I feel, and nobody really seems to care.”

As of Monday, Tobago, with a population of 60,000, has 456 active covid19 cases – almost ten per cent of the national total.


"Homesick UK resident, 81, feels ‘stuck’ in Tobago"

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