Friday, February 23, 2018

Shutdown traps sick US resident

n Immigration Department closed by industrial action


closed: Applicants for Trinidad and Tobago passports stand outside the Immigration office on Knox Street, San Fernando, yesterday, enquiring about when the office will be re-opened. The office was closed last Thursday by the Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke due to occupational health and safety issues. —Photos: TREVOR WATSON

Mark Fraser

UNITED STATES resident Bally Mahabir is now trapped in Trinidad as a result of the ongoing industrial action involving the Immigration Department.

Mahabir, who suffers from diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol yesterday  appealed to workers at the San Fernando branch of the Immigration Department to process his documents so he can leave for home on Saturday.

Mahabir, 55, told the Express his passport expired and he was expected to collect his new one last Wednesday. However, the Public Services Association (PSA) has shut down operations at the branch, with no word on when it will reopen. 

The PSA has blamed the shutdown on  breached health and safety practices.

The office remained closed yesterday while workers continued their protest in Port of Spain.

The industrial action is part of a wave of protests involving workers who have for several weeks stayed off the job at the Immigration Departments in Port of Spain and San Fernando, with a threat yesterday by PSA president Watson Duke that should the Government not intervene, the entire system will  be shut down. (See related story)

Mahabir was expected to travel on Saturday  to his Queen’s, New York, home but he cannot without his passport.

He said: “Right now, I am very ill. All my medication have finished and I don’t know where to get them. I was supposed to go back to the US because I have a medical appointment and I had to call and cancel. 

“I had to pay US$400 to postpone my ticket, US$150 penalty and because it is peak season for travelling, the ticket price would be higher.”

He said: “I don’t know when I will be able to travel again. But I hope they get their problems solved soon. If I could get the passport any other way just so I could travel, I would. I hope somebody could help me because I am really not well at all.”

Mahabir said he arrived in the country on June 11 to spend time with his ailing 84-year-old mother in Charlieville, Chaguanas, where he is staying.

He said when he went to the Immigration office in Chaguanas to apply for his passport, he was told he needed to go to the San Fernando office.

The San Fernando office has however been closed until further notice.



\\ Last week, The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce issued a press release stating it was concerned about the shutdown of the Immigration services in both cities.

It stated: “The Chamber continues to be of the view that in any work environment, if there are deficiencies in compliance with the OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) Act, the employer must be responsible for correcting these in a proactive manner and ensure that all employees are working under safe conditions, as provided under the OSH Act.”