PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday encouraged Trinidad and Tobago to open its homes to Dominicans displaced by Hurricane Maria.
He said those who can find accommodation in T&T are welcome and while this country was not in a position to offer financial aid, assistance to a Caricom neighbour in need could be rendered in other forms.
He has also appealed to Dominicans living in T&T to open their homes to relatives devastated by Maria.
Government is prepared to waive the necessary immigration laws to allow for stays of six months at a time, he said.
Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, Rowley addressed Dominica's dire situation, where nearly 100 per cent of homes were damaged by Maria's Category 4 winds late Monday into Tuesday.
Dominica has lost nearly all infrastructure and crops and many are yet to hear from their loved ones, as the island's communication network remains down.
Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who also lost his residence, yesterday tearfully confirmed that Maria's death toll had so far reached 15, with 20 still missing.
Calling on T&T to give generously in its neighbour's time of need, Rowley also encouraged T&T nationals to open their homes to desperate victims.
No restrictions to enter
Citizens of Dominica will be allowed to enter without restrictions and stay up to six months.
They may then “return to their homes and if they want an extension, they have to apply for the process”, Rowley said.
“I am proposing in T&T that we waive or encourage in such a way that a number of Dominicans who can find contact in T&T and make their way to Trinidad and Tobago and find a household that can accept them, we will waive all restrictions for the next six months to any citizen of Dominica,” Rowley said.
Rowley said for the next six months, “Trinidad and Tobago will open its doors, homes, pots and I dare say, our schools.”
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said yesterday his Ministry was open to making spaces available in the nation's schools for children displaced by Maria, however this would be done according to the guidance of the Ministry of National Security.
Rowley, responding to questions about the volume of Dominican citizens who may want to seek refuge in T&T, said he would not expect “the whole of Dominica” to come.
Rowley said at most he would expect one, maybe two thousand people to accept.
Rowley said if people come to T&T and had a place to stay no means of support, that would not be a reason to turn them away.
The PM also said he has not yet been able to speak directly with his Caricom counterpart, the prime minister of Dominica.
During his delivery yesterday, Rowley recalled his own family's devastation following Hurricane Flora's attack on Tobago in 1963.
The announcement of the offer received mixed reactions yesterday on social media.
Some people welcomed it and emphasised that T&T has been fortunate not to have suffered the same fate during the 2017 hurricane season, which appears to be one of anomalies.
Others accused Rowley of neglecting his own country while allowing others in.
Yet others suggested he was looking to pad votes in the next general election.