With the country’s borders closed since March 22nd, there are now thousands of Trinidad and Tobago nationals abroad, many of whom are ready to come home.
However, there is a group of local agricultural workers hoping that the government will allow them to leave.
Every year, for eight months, hundreds of the workers go to Canada to work on farms, as part of an inter-government agreement between the North American country and T&T.
But, this year’s trip is in jeopardy.
They were supposed to leave for Ontario on April 1st, but the flight was cancelled because of the border closure.
They are hoping though that the National Security Minister Stuart Young will make an exemption.
“I’d like to ask the minister if he could kindly consider allowing us to leave. Firstly, this is our sole income. We have no other source of income unless it’s part-time,” Sidique Ali Hosein said.
“We understand what the crisis is. We understand the risks involved, but we also need to provide for our families,” he added.
Designated as essential workers in Canada, Ali Hosein said the government has given clearance for them to enter.
He said arrangements have also been made with the owner of Schuyler farms, in Ontario, where he will work, to charter a flight to pick them up.
Two other colleagues of his, brothers – Assad and Farzad Mohammed, said the like hundreds of others seeking to make the trip, they are desperate to go .
They said, in many instances, the families of the agricultural workers depend on the earnings they receive in Canada.
“It’s hundreds of families dependent on this programme because every week they send money home,” Assad said.
“Since I start to go to Canada, I start to build my house. I start from foundation. I’m not done yet. I send back money home to take care of my family,” Farzad added.
More than 3,900 miles away, in Ontario, owner of Schuyler farms, Brett Schuyler, said he’s waiting patiently for Ali Hosein and the Mohammed brothers to arrive.
He said the group offers specialized skills that he needs to maximize the output from his farm.
Without them there, he said, an already challenging spring has become even more difficult.
“If there’s a good reason for it, that’s one thing. But, everybody is in the dark right now. We don’t know why, but what we do know is that every other country is flying, and we are going, what’s the difference here? What is going on?” he asked.
While the workers from T&T are awaiting news from the National Security Ministry, Schuyler said other Caribbean countries have allowed their nationals to leave.
He said recently 27 workers from Jamaica came to his farm to work.
Saying he’s made numerous attempts to contact the T&T government to make arrangements, he said there’s been no response.
“It’s just frustrating because we don’t hear anything. We don’t hear that they aren’t going, or yes, that they are going. They just say they are going to talk about it.” Schuyler said.
In addition to needing clearance from the national security ministry, Ali Hosein said they also need the labour ministry to finalize the necessary paperwork.
They said last year they did the necessary medical tests and provided the requisite documents to the ministry.
Attempts to contact National Security Minister Stuart Young and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus for comment were unsuccessful.