PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, April 27, 2020 (CMC) – National Security Minister, Stuart Young, announced, today, that the twin-island country would allow for, at least 60 of its nationals, stranded in Suriname, to return home, even as he maintained that the borders would continue to remain closed, until May 15, in the first instance.
Speaking at the daily Ministry of Health news conference on the coronavirus (COVID-19), Young said that he had been in communication with lawyers, representing 33 of those nationals in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, and had also been approached by a company, here, requesting assistance repatriating more than 30 of its employees.
Young said that in the next 24 hours, he expects to have a better picture, as to the number of citizens stranded in Suriname, who will be able to make their way home, “at their own expense”.
“When they get to Trinidad and Tobago, at their own accord, they will — as you have seen happen with the 33 nationals who returned from Barbados — be subject to the Chief Medical Officer and his professional staff, and they will be quarantined,” Young reported.
“There will be no doubt about that,” Young said, noting that unlike the nationals, who were stranded in Barbados, those in Suriname are not one particular group.
“They are all now mixed, and that presents a different scenario, but the government is allowing them, of their own accord, to make their way back here, (and) when they arrive here, they will be quarantined…as part of our management of our country’s borders,” he added.
He told reporters that while five chartered aircraft had been allowed to land, over the weekend, as well as Port of Spain allowing the United States military to [pick up US nationals here, this had been done, under strict supervision, with no one being allowed to disembark and remain in Trinidad.
Young also indicated that, over the weekend, law enforcement officials had detained two Trinidad and Tobago nationals, who had travelled to Venezuela illegally, and confiscated several goods.
“We have been using our technologies, as well as our hard personnel,” the National Security Minister said, adding that during the early hours of today, “we picked up two of three Trinidad and Tobago nationals, who had crossed the border, went to Venezuela, and coming back, we caught them with huge amounts of fish and shrimp, in complete contravention of, not only the COVID regulations, but also the Customs Act”.
Young said last week, Venezuelan nationals were also detained by law enforcement authorities, here, and handed over to their counterparts in Caracas.
The National Security Minister also took the opportunity to reiterate Port of Spain’s position, regarding its relationship with Barbados, saying that Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, had made it clear ‘we have absolutely no issues with Barbados.
“I certainly have no issue with anyone in Barbados, at the Barbados government level. I have not spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I can say, very openly, here, I have never spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Barbados, over this issue.
“I was dealing with the Prime Minister of Barbados (Mia Mottley) and the Attorney General (Dale Marshall) directly, and I have absolutely no issues with the government of Barbados. And you will recall, last week …when I read a certain letter, from us, to a CARICOM country, I did not call the name of any such country, but certainly I could put on record, here, that I have absolutely no issues with the government of Barbados, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Young said.
The Barbados government issued a statement, last Friday, in which it said that it was “deeply disturbed” by a jab, made by Young, who suggested the Mottley administration failed to respect the twin-island republic’s border policies in its handling of the situation, involving 33 Trinidadians, who were stranded there for a month.
The Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry described Young’s comments as “regrettable”, as it stressed that Barbados had gone through all the appropriate channels to get the group home. They returned to Trinidad and Tobago, last Wednesday, after testing negative for COVID-19.
Last week, Young told a virtual media briefing, that while Trinidad and Tobago had closed its borders as one of its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, citizens overseas and other non-nationals were using a particular Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation as “a jumping point” to get into the country.
He did not name the country, but said that Prime Minister Rowley had instructed Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Dennis Moses, to write to that country’s government.
Young had also urged the unnamed country not to allow its “good offices to be used by those, who wish to compromise our current border measures”.
During the news conference on Monday, health officials said that Trinidad and Tobago would be prepared to handle, medically, any national deported from the United States or any other country, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trinidad and Tobago has had 115 persons tested positive for the virus, with eight deaths, to date.