(JAMAICA GLEANER) — Several Jamaicans who are stranded in Barbados due to COVID-19 have lambasted the Government for not doing enough to rescue them from starvation and homelessness in a foreign country.
Natasha Henry*, one of the Jamaicans stuck in the overseas territory since February, said her mental state is rapidly deteriorating and as each day progresses, she loses more faith in the Jamaican Government.
“I tried to leave on March 21 when the Government said we needed to get home, but Trinidad closed their borders and Caribbean Airlines cancelled the flight, so we could not leave. I am staying at an Airbnb and I was told I can’t stay here anymore because I have not been paying for the last two weeks as I am not working. I communicated this with the consulate and they have done nothing.
“I do not think the Government is doing enough for us. I called and I don’t get any response. I sent emails, I have sent Instagram messages, I have written to the minister and to the prime minister. I called the consulate and she said we should stop calling her phone because she doesn’t have any information, and when she gets something, she will tell us. Basically, me sleeping on the street is what my Government wants,” Henry said.
The 40-year-old said she initially travelled to Barbados to conduct a series of interviews for a position as project manager for one of the major hotels in the island.
However, that dream ended quickly as three days after her final interview, the hotel shuttered its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Henry, when her attempts to return to Jamaica proved futile due to the cancellation of the flight, because of her limited monetary resources, she had to move to a lower-scale Airbnb, which she describes as a small 8×10 room.
“I am stuck in this room and I am going crazy. Barbados is in a 24-hour lockdown so we are least exposed for anyone catching the virus. Why shouldn’t we be given preference to come home since they know that at least we are corona-free, instead of bringing people in from the UK,” she said.
Thatcher Loutin, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus Guild president, said due to her publicised efforts to get the 26 stranded Jamaican students home, Fly One Caribbean Limited airline has reached out to offer their services at a fee.
NO HELP ANYWHERE
However, that depends on if the Government will grant them approval to enter the country amid the current closed border to incoming passengers.
“You know the Government is doing control entry and they told us to fill out the immigration form and when we checked, it is still pending, so we want to know if we are on the priority list. Apart from the Jamaican students, there are other stranded Jamaicans in Barbados, and I don’t know if the Government is not getting what we are saying.
“Everybody is seeking help and nobody is saying anything to us. I called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I was told the ministry is not dealing with it, I should call the Ministry of Security or the Ministry of Health. If I was able to sign up on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, why should I have to go somewhere else for information? I should not have to be calling from ministry to ministry,” Loutin said.
Ella Hoyos, Jamaican’s honorary consul in Barbados, said her office is doing everything it can to help the stranded Jamaicans, but due to the constraints caused by COVID-19, some things are difficult to achieve.
“At this stage, we have been collecting information to send it to the Government in order to make a decision. My office obviously responds to welfare calls from Jamaicans in Barbados, whether they be students or other nationals. We assist people to have accommodations so they are not on the street, but we are in a very constrained environment, as you can imagine, so people are not grasping and opening their homes to people in the midst of a pandemic,” Hoyos said.
When The Gleaner asked her how many Jamaicans in total, inclusive of students, were stranded in Barbados and have expressed their desire to return home, she declined to comment.
“I have a list of Jamaicans who have said they wanted to go home and I have conveyed the names to the High Commision in Trinidad for onwards transmission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jamaica. I don’t think I want to go into those details. My role as honorary consul, as I understand it, is to collect this information and pass it on to the High Commission,” she said.