Stressed, tired and hopeless is how 61-year-old Trinidadian Joanne Pantin feels after being stranded in Miami for four months, with no word from the Government on when she will be allowed to return home.
In a tearful video on social media yesterday, Pantin pleaded with the Government to grant her an exemption to come home.
Pantin said it was disturbing to see Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s decision to host the 2020 edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) here, allowing hundreds of people into Trinidad and Tobago for the tournament when she and others are stranded abroad.
“I don’t know how to explain to any human being how I feel, but this can’t continue. Regrettably, there is nothing I can do or say except ask Trinidad and Tobago nationals, please some form, some way I ask, plead, beg, help us to get home,” she lamented.
“This is no longer a case of we trying or we faking something or we have money. Mentally, it’s gone beyond that, no sleep. I am 61. I never felt and looked like this in my entire life. All I’m asking is I would like for the Government to see this is no longer a case of we can wait. We are stressed, we are tired, we are hopeless,” a dishevelled Pantin added.
She noted that she has been paying US$40 a day to stay in a room while abroad but money has now run out.
“I am a broken human being. I have my own home that I so desire to be in. I am forced to live in a one-room that is expensive. Money has run out. I feel as though I’m abandoned. There is nothing that could make me feel that this Government cares about myself and people that are outside of the border,” Pantin said.
She said for four months she has been sending many e-mails to the Minister of National Security and the Ministry of National Security asking for permission to come home, but received no response.
“How can I continue? I don’t step outside from where I am. I want to come home. My tears are not tears of sorrow, but of a broken person. This is a crime against me. When all the world took the pain to repatriate its citizens I am abandoned,” Pantin said.
“I pray day and night. I am a praying person. I would not let anything shake my faith that God is in control, but Dr Rowley, you are breaking us mentally. You are taking away from us something that doesn’t belong to you. I need to hear, to see, to just get an answer. When will this end because there is no end for me. I need to leave this place. I’m in one room. It costs US$40 a day and then you add the taxes, and I have to eat. This is months,” she added.
“I would like for the minister who has the portfolio as Attorney General to search in the laws as to human rights and what are my rights. As a national of T&T I hold a national birth certificate, passport and ID. I worked 41 years, paid all my taxes to be at this age and I have to beg to come home,” a tearful Pantin went on.
The Express tried getting comments from National Security Minister Stuart Young on Pantin’s plight but he did not respond to calls or messages.
Attorney: Citizens being punished
In response to Pantin’s pleas, attorney Kelvin Ramkissoon took the Government to task over its CPL decision.
“This decision is disproportionate and flies in the face of Ms Pantin’s passionate pleas,” Ramkissoon said in a letter to the editor.
He acknowledged that Government’s policy to keep T&T’s borders closed is based on the need to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and avoid overburdening the health sector.
Ramkissoon also noted that every application for exemption must be considered fairly.
He said, however, that the Government’s decision to host the CPL “cannot be reconciled since the very rationale for keeping away our citizens is being jettisoned to accommodate entry of hundreds of foreign nationals for recreational purposes”.
“Many variables present in the context of our citizens who are stuck abroad, the principal one being the lack of funds. Others travelled for medical reasons and cannot access continued health care due to their nationality. In some cases, there was business travel or for corporate reasons. In other cases, citizens’ non-immigrant visas have expired, rendering their status unlawful. There is a cost of hundreds of dollars to reapply for a visa which many cannot afford,” Ramkissoon pointed out.
Ramkissoon posited that the Government’s attitude continues to be one of callous disregard for the rights of citizens who are placed in a de facto stateless and precarious legal position.
“The Government can hardly justify its reasons for not opening the borders in a limited manner since the Minister of Health has repeatedly boasted of this country’s state of readiness for the Covid pandemic,” he said.
He said it was regrettable that T&T citizens are being punished by exercising their right to travel abroad and for months cannot return to their home country.
“Any caring government would organise repatriation flights for its citizens as some of the world’s poorest nations have done,” Ramkissoon said.