A GROUP of about two dozen faculty and students at St George’s University (SGU) in Grenada and their families have made a desperate appeal to the Ministry of National Security.
The TT nationals want to be allowed to come back home on a chartered flight paid for by the university.
A student there who lives off campus said the lockdown situation in Grenada was particularly tough, and she is now battling anxiety on a daily basis.
“The situation in Grenada has been scary. I was out of food during April, when Grenada only allowed you to go to the grocery two days for the week (and) it was by last-name basis.”
She said on one occasion she was listed to visit the grocery with a Saturday-morning group, but after lining up for five hours, was not allowed in because the next set of people were due to enter.
“It was horrible. I left with no groceries, and so did hundreds of people. Everything was closed and I ate cereal, because that’s what I had in my cupboard.
“After they realised this was a bad method of allowing people to go to the store, we were allowed three days a week that we can go to the grocery. For about a month only groceries and pharmacies were open, and you were confined to your parish.”
She said she fell ill last month (unrelated to covid19) and ended up in hospital, where her wallet was stolen, together with her ID, money and credit cards.
While friends are helping her get by, she said she cannot pay her rent and has been given 15 days’ grace by her landlord.
“If I get kicked out,” she said, “I have no money and I’m in a foreign place.
“This has not only been distressing for myself but also my family.
“The government has ignored us. Students in Grenada have had a lot of patience throughout this process, but now it is running thin.”
Nazim Mohammed, whose daughter is studying medicine at SGU, said the family has tried several times since April to get the green light for her to return home. He said SGU has also written collectively on behalf of the students but has got no clear dates or substantial responses.
“We’ve been virtually begging to get a hearing with Stuart Young. The university is paying for the flight, so they just awaiting government approval,” Mohammed told Newsday in an interview yesterday. “They are covid-free. Why you all suffering the students there?”
National Security Minister Stuart Young addressed the matter of students stranded abroad during a virtual press conference on Monday, although he did not explicitly address those in Grenada. He spoke of offering students in Cuba exemptions to come home.
He said the number of nationals allowed to re-enter the country at any one time depends on the facilities available to quarantine them.
He also said, “We are also looking at the numbers of other persons who are in the region who have been out there and stranded for the last few weeks and months. We have the dates that these people requested exemptions to come, so we’re going to do some exercises. I will be discussing with Caribbean Airlines how to carry out those exercises or other private charter planes, how to get back other persons in the Caribbean area as the next wave of persons we’re bringing home.”
Both Mohammed and SGU made requests in May. They did not approach the minister earlier, as they were under the impression that students, especially those studying in the region, would be among the first to be allowed home.
“I don’t know what is wrong,” said Mohammed. “All the UWI students came from Mona (Jamaica) and Cave Hill (Barbados) but what is happening with Grenada?
“Now they talking about bringing back people from India. What is it with Grenada?”
Mohammed’s daughter also spoke with Newsday and elaborated on her situation, but asked for her name to be withheld.
She said she did not have her passport when the borders were closed at midnight on March 22 because it was in Jamaica, where it had been sent for a visa application so that she could work in the UK.
“I had gotten through to start my clinical rotations in June (SGU students go elsewhere to do the clinical part of their medical training) and I had to send my passport to get my student visa and I didn’t get it back until April, when the borders were already closed,” she said.
She said she knew of other students in the same position, and SGU had been chartering flights for students, many of whom are from the US. SGU is primarily a medical school and is an offshore American university.
“They actually held a Caribbean Airlines flight for us and we were supposed to leave on the ninth (of June) pending approval from the government.
“The thing is, we have a flight. We’re seeing all these newspaper articles and watching all these press conferences and not once have I heard them mention students in Grenada.
“So I feel we’re not being heard. We’ve been the quietest group.”
Like her father, she explained, “We thought that we were up on the priority list as students to get home.”
She said the situation is stressful on many levels but SGU has done all it can to accommodate and help those stranded.
But most, if not all, she said are running low on money. She said not only is it expensive to rent in Grenada, but because lockdown was so strict on the island, she could not leave her apartment. She is still unable to get to the university campus.