Saturday, February 24, 2018

Citizens enraged in Sando


NO RELIEF: People gather at the entrance to the Immigration Office at Knox Street, San Fernando, yesterday. —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

Mark Fraser

IT was an ugly scene outside the Immigration Department in San Fernando yesterday, as enraged citizens turned up to do business only to find the office locked.

Workers had walked off the job in apparent disregard for last week’s court order restraining their illegal protest and ordering them back to work.

Dozens of people said their planned foreign vacations were left in tatters, with several foreign residents unable to leave the country, and no one at the building able to give any information as to when people could expect relief.

One woman said she had faith in Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar being able to intervene in the issue. Persad-Bissessar left yesterday for Brazil to attend the World Cup matches with her grandson.

The Immigration Department has been involved in industrial action for several weeks, but the problem appeared to have been temporarily solved when the Government went to court last Thursday and obtained an ex-parte injunction preventing any further closures in Port of Spain and San Fernando.

Both Immigration departments opened for business last Friday. 

Yesterday, however within an hour, workers walked away from the San Fernando office and left a “closed” sign on the door.

People who turned up were seen banging on the door and shouting expletives. 

One woman wanting to use the washroom was ignored by a police officer and security guard who were seen inside the building. By midday, the main gate to the building was also locked. 

Several women who have already bought airline tickets and are expected to travel next week complained about the lack of service. They travelled from Port of Spain, Moruga, Barrackpore, Penal and Princes Town and said they should not have to be visiting the office and  not be able to collect their travel documents.

Viola Simon, who has dual citizenship with Canada said she travelled to San Fernando from where she is staying in Port of Spain yesterday morning by bus to get a serial number changed. 

 She said, “When I came to Trinidad, they stamped the wrong number on my passport. They stamped the number for a visitor which I am not. I went to the Port of Spain office on Friday to get it changed and they told me the office in San Fernando was the only office I could get it changed. This is very frustrating.”

Axis Ramdeen said she applied for her passport on May 15 and was told to collect it in three weeks. When she visited the office after three weeks, she was told it was not ready and return in two weeks. When she returned, the office was not operational. Thinking the industrial action was over, she visited the office again yesterday only to leave disappointed.

Lisa Richards, expected to travel abroad for the first time next month, said she applied since last year August for her passport but it was delayed because there were problems. She went to the office expecting to collect it yesterday.

Others expected to travel to New York, USA, who already bought tickets want to know when the problem will be solved. Some were hoping to visit sick relatives. 

Others who had their vacation planned in advance are now concerned as to whether they will actually be giving the opportunity to travel at the expected time.