Nationals receive a warm welcome from family, friends and colleagues after they disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas at the Cruise Ship Complex in Port-of-Spain last week. (Image: ANISTO ALVES)

A group of Trinidad and Tobago medical students in Cuba are scheduled to return home today on a Caribbean Airlines repatriation flight.

The green light for the students to return home was given by National Security Minister Stuart Young in an email on July 1. The students then received confirmation from CAL. Initially, the repatriation flight was scheduled for July 4 but was rescheduled for today.

Speaking to the Guardian Media on Sunday, one of the students, now elated at the prospect of finally coming home, said: “Most of us who can go home at this time, we are actually relieved that we can go home, that we can get the stuff that we need and most importantly spend time with our family before us leaving to come back (to Cuba) in September for the start of the new semester.”

However, the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said of the 21 of them, nine may not return home—two for “personal reasons” and seven because there are still waiting to sit exams at their university.

“It is the only university in Cuba that is still in operation and all other universities have been closed since in March and they have been moving exams further and further away from the date. Most of the students would have ended their exams this week but that university came and changed their dates and pushed it further away and therefore when the students went to that university to ask them if they could possibly move up their dates, they allegedly refused to make any adjustments to the exam date to allow the students to come home,” the student said.

“So those who can leave, we are really happy and thank the T&T Government for finally remembering us and giving us the approval to return home because all of our hope here had ended.”

The student said they were told they would be given instructions about the mandatory quarantine when they land at the Piarco International Airport.

“We were told that we would have to undergo some medical examinations but nothing specific has been given. We really don’t know what to expect but we know that we have to do quarantine and we are willing to do all that is required not to just ensure the safety of ourselves but our family and the people of T&T.

“We have no issues with going into quarantine but we do not know where we are going yet, I guess when we land on Monday we will be given specifics,” the student said.

On June 20, emotions ran high among the students after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated there were issues with a repatriation flight out of Cuba because there were no direct flights between T&T and Cuba.

But the students and their parents acted emotionally and angrily to this, as many of them were running out of supplies and funding during the COVID-19 lockdown in Cuba. The students had been sending repatriation requests to the Ministry of National Security since March and Guardian Media highlighted their plight on June 17.