Kalifa Sarah Clyne
Trinidad and Tobago has distributed US$205,958.99 to 298 stranded nationals through five overseas missions between August and September.
The money was humanitarian aid announced by the Prime Minister during the initial period of covid19 restrictions which included closure of the country’s borders in March. The borders remain closed.
The five overseas TT missions used to distribute the money were the High Commission in London, the Consulate General in Miami, the Consulate General in New York, the Embassy in Washington, DC and the Consulate General in Toronto.
Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Amery Browne shared the information with Newsday on Wednesday, in response to questions submitted about nationals abroad, particularly in the UK.
Questions were sent to Browne after UK MP Steve Baker, during questions to that country’s Foreign Office Minister Wendy Morton in Parliament on Tuesday, said this country’s stranded nationals, some of whom are staying in his constituency, were terrified and “burning through their savings.” Morton answered by saying her office was in touch with its counterpart in TT.
Baker then called on Morton to join him in calling on the TT government to make sure their citizens get home. “I think it’s our common humanity to enable people to return to protect their homes.”
In his response to Newsday, Browne said Government was cognizant of the “very serious challenges” many nationals who normally reside in TT but were abroad when the borders closed, now face.
He pointed to the shift in policy that Dr Rowley announced for an increased rate in the granting of travel exemptions by the Ministry of National Security.
“This adjustment has been made and more nationals have been getting the opportunity to travel home. The existing limitations are guided by protocols of our public health officials, and once the covid19 numbers continue to improve our nationals can anticipate further improvements in the ease of return.”
Throughout the past six months, many citizens hoping to return home have expressed feelings of frustration and hopelessness.
In July, Rowley told the country that approximately 8,000 citizens had applied for exemptions since March. At the time, he said the ministry had approved approximately 4,500 exemptions.
Government has not yet provided an updated figure for those still waiting on exemptions to enter the country. Browne said that with specific reference to the United Kingdom, the High Commission disbursed the pound sterling equivalent of US$29,044.24 to nationals whose applications were approved.
“In addition, information was provided via social media on guidelines from the Ministries of Health and National Security of Trinidad and Tobago as well as bulletins with information from the British Home Office and generally trying to maintain contact via e-mails, text messages, WhatsApp messages and telephone calls,” the minister said.
Since the initial announcement of funds, which ended in September, Government has not announced any additional financial assistance for stranded-nationals.
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