National Security Minister Stuart Young insists the Government’s management of the repatriation response to COVID-19 is driven by public health and science.
The Minister today issued a release following accusations of favouritism in the approval of applications.
Mr Young insists that from day one it was announced that applications will be considered on a case by case basis, and says this continues to date.
He adds that approvals were never granted on a first come first served basis alone, and at every stage, the Ministry maintained discretion for emergency cases or expedited cases.
According to the Minister, it also became apparent that many Trinidadians who had chosen to live abroad, applied to come back to T&T, including those with dual citizenship.
He maintains that it would have been unfair to prioritize these persons over those who had simply travelled and were stuck outside when the borders were closed.
According to Mr Young, National Security worked closely with the Health Ministry to ensure a maximization of the number of repatriations, considering the state of the parallel health care system and its capacity.
He also points to the introduction of state supervised quarantine facilities which allowed for an increase in the number of persons being repatriated in each cycle.
The release goes on to state:
“The system is designed to be as fair as possible and there is no discrimination as we try to repatriate nationals safely.
The system does change as required. For example, we recently introduced the requirement of a negative PCR test 72 hours before arrival in Trinidad and Tobago. This allowed us to reduce the time in state quarantine or state supervised quarantine to 7 days down from 14 days allowing us to have quicker cycles of repatriation.
Additionally, the Government has made money available to various embassies and missions to assist and alleviate hardships of our nationals abroad as they await repatriation.”
Regarding farm workers in Canada it says:
“There is a separate category of nationals who went to Canada to work on farms. These workers fall into two categories, those who were in Canada when the borders were closed on March 22 and those who went to Canada after the borders were closed (in their hundreds). The workers who went to work in Canada after the borders were closed were warned that if the borders remained closed when they wished to return they would be subject to the Government’s existing border management policies. They signed agreements agreeing to be bound by this and also acknowledging the risk they were taking. Nevertheless, as soon as these workers finished working in Canada they demanded to return.
The Government has been working with the Government of Canada to facilitate these nationals and has been repatriating them. We are now dedicating flights and facilities for these workers to return to Trinidad and Tobago. It is to be noted that over 90 nationals have indicated that they wish to stay in Canada even though we are making arrangements for their return to Trinidad and Tobago.”