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Minister of National Security Stuart Young speaks to members of the media during a press conference held to provide an update on national security issues at Temple Court, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain yesterday.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

One week after the National Security Ministry launched its online exemption process, from emailed requests to an online-based form, Minister Stuart Young says the number of exemption applications has decreased significantly.

Young held a press conference at the Ministry of National Security headquarters yesterday, saying he wanted to give an update on the exemption process.

He said since the Government began repatriating stranded nationals, all of those who were stuck abroad have been brought home.

The minister said those who remain abroad fall into one of several categories, including those who live elsewhere illegally, lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wish to return to T&T, those who live and work elsewhere and wish to return to T&T permanently, those who wish to visit their families, those who received exemptions to leave last October, November and December and now want to return.

Young said when the email-system was being used for exemption requests, there were 8,259 pending applications for exemptions sent to the Ministry.

But he said when the new system was launched, on its first day was a massive reduction in the number of applications.

He said, “1,676 applications as opposed to the 8,000 the Friday before, I said let’s see what happens the second day because that will be a good test to see how many persons genuinely, legitimately know they can fill out these boxes because there were a lot of questions in the online to see how many there would be at the end of the second day. At the end of the second day, there were 2,171 applications.

To date, Young said there have been only 3,260 exemption applications to the online system.

He said a weighting system is being used to determine the priority of returning nationals- which includes criteria such as age, medical issues, whether they can pay for quarantine, among other things.

Young said he was disheartened by the efforts by Opposition members to get citizens stuck outside the country to bring legal action against the Government.

He said he has told Attorney General Faris Al- Rawi to have State prosecutors pursue costs from attorneys who bring these types of cases.