PARTIAL relief was offered by the Frederick Street branch of the Immigration Office in Port of Spain yesterday as some citizens were able to access the service between 7 a.m. and noon.
There were some broad smiles coming out of the office from those who had successfully had their passports renewed or acquired the document for the first time.
This follows weeks of partial and full-time shut-downs of the Port of Spain and San Fernando passport offices under the command of the Public Services Association (PSA), with employees, through union leader Watson Duke, claiming the facilities were unsafe and unfit for human habitation.
An injunction filed on Thursday by the Office of the Attorney General for the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprises was meant
to dam up the PSA’s actions, but public servants at the Port of Spain office still shut the doors at noon.
The Industrial Court granted the injunction on the ground of national interest.
The people who spoke to the Express as they left or went into the passport office yesterday said they had “taken a chance” to leave their homes or take time out from work to attempt to get their documents in order.
Most of the people were rushing to travel during the school holidays, and one woman said she was due to assume as a caretaker for a sick relative abroad weeks ago but was unable to renew her passport.
“This caused a lot of stress and expense to the family, but maybe I cannot blame the Immigration workers if it is that their conditions are really so bad,” the San Juan-based woman said.
Several people said they had missed the appointments given to them by the Immigration Office because of the shut-downs and had been seriously inconvenienced.
The Frederick Street office was fairly packed until noon when security guards started turning people away. Those already on the inside were attended to while outside, some citizens made their displeasure
Asked why she did not visit another passport office, the woman said she did not know where any other of the branches were located.
At last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news briefing, Labour Minister Errol McLeod said the shut-downs being led by Duke were illegal and the Immigration employees should have allowed themselves to be guided by the law.
Thursday’s court order, an ex-parte injunction to restrain industrial action at the Immigration Department of the Ministry of National Security, did not however prevent the imposition of time restrictions on the service yesterday, which is considered in the Industrial Relations Act to be an essential one.
Duke had earlier this week threatened the total collapse of the Immigration Department and, in earlier statements, had demanded Government relocate the employees of the two protesting branches to some of the newer Government buildings, including Tower C at the Port of Spain International Waterfront.
Among the health and safety violations being claimed by Duke and the employees is a dusty and mouldy interior and fire hazards and poor to timely evacuation of the building in the event of an emergency.
Duke could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"This caused a lot of stress and expense to the family, but maybe I cannot blame the Immigration workers if it is that
their conditions are really so bad"