Scores of people lined the pavement outside the Immigration office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, yesterday, with the hope that their passports would be ready, but many left empty handed and upset.
The Express learnt many had arrived there from as early as 3 a.m. to ensure they were at the top of the line, but when the doors opened up around 7.30 a.m. and they were allowed in, the glimmer of hope faded very quickly and police was called out as tempers flared.
A lone police officer was seen pacing up and down the pavement in an attempt to keep people from spilling out onto the entire sidewalk.
A member of the public explained the police were called out following an outburst by members of the public over the long wait and the fact that the elderly were a part of the “suffering”.
Beverly Martin who left without her passport yesterday said she got to the Immigration office at 6 a.m. because she has been waiting for the past month for document she needs in order to travel at the end of the month.
“I went in and they told me that it isn’t ready because of a lot of backlog and come back in a month but I have been waiting about a month already for my passport. I was here Monday, the office was closed, it open today and is the same thing. I have to leave the country on the 30th July for England so I need to collect my passport. You know is about $9,000 to go England and if I don’t get it, the passport, I will lose that money,” she said.
Another member of the public who asked that his name not be used said he went to collect passports for himself and his family but was also sent away empty handed.
“We have been waiting since the 27th February. This is about the sixth time that I have had to come back and we are due to travel on July 12th. When we went in they told us it, our trip, was not important, it is not an emergency and we should come back. Four months to collect a passport, this is absurd,” he said.
The Express was told the line which had earlier stretched up to the wall of the St Mary’s College was shortened a bit after the elderly were invited to sit inside the building but even they got fed up and left.
“Police came out because temperatures started to rise on two occasions; people were cursing and shouting, because they fed up,” one woman in the line said.
Shanice Nelson who said she has been trying since last Friday to make an appointment for a passport also expressed frustration.
“I have been here since 7 a.m., all I’m trying to do is apply for a passport, since last week Friday. I went to South and it was the same thing,” Nelson said.
Allyson Crosby, a mother who applied for her passport on May 7, described the long wait to collect the passport as madness.
“They have people birth certificate and other documents, they keeping me back from doing things that I want to do for my children. I need two forms of IDs to open bank accounts for my children. I want to make sure I do something for them. So long you have to wait for a passport, better they refund me my money,” she said.
Another man told the Express he has to travel for his job but has been unable to do so because he too has been waiting to collect his passport.
“This is the second time I have been here. I made my passport application since the 7th April it is now July and I can’t get a passport yet. This is beyond ridiculous, they holding the entire country to ransom,” he said.
A young woman who was due to travel to New York for her grandmother’s funeral on Sunday was told she should come back next month.
When asked about their working hours an immigration officer said they were working from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. until they are relocated.