Guyanese teacher stuck in The Bahamas with expired passport pleads to return home

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By Bibi Khatoon

Following the closure of Guyana’s airports to incoming international flights in March, thousands of Guyanese are left stranded across the world and in some countries that do not have direct flights.

One such person is 45-year-old Sherwin Fraser, a Guyanese teacher who travelled to The Bahamas in August 2019.

He was planning to return home on April 3 but as he was about to book his flight in March, he was told that the local airports will be closed the following day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is nothing much to do here and every day I wake, I am wondering if we will ever be repatriated or whether we have to wait until the ports reopen, which is still uncertain for August,” Fraser told the News Room during an interview.

With the closure of schools in The Bahamas, he is also not working and to make matters worse, Fraser’s passport expired on April 9, leaving him stranded on the island indefinitely.

There are two ways he can leave from the Linden Pindling International Airport in Nassau Bahamas – via Caribbean Airlines with a stop in Jamaica and Trinidad or through Miami in the United States which is closer to The Bahamas.

Fraser said the Consul General for Guyana, Jairam Mangra promised him a travel document to return home but the document cannot be used to travel to the United States which had several repatriation flights since March.

Additionally, there are other Guyanese stuck on the island who do not have a US Visa.

“We have not heard anything for all this time…but what I am seeing is that there were at least three flights from Miami and then there were flights from Barbados and Trinidad and here, nothing,” Fraser said.

He and the others completed their repatriation forms in early June.

“We’re calling on the COVID-19 task force, the GCAA and others…at least to do something quickly for those persons who are here so we can return home,” the Guyanese teacher said.

According to an email from the Guyana Consulate in The Bahamas, there are three groups of persons awaiting repatriation.

They include persons who travelled to the island as visitors and have their return tickets with commercial airlines, those who have been living/working in The Bahamas and now due to their circumstances want to re-migrate to Guyana and those who want to return to Guyana for family, business or emergency purposes.

The first two sets of persons “are now required to pay for any charter flight when/if arranged by the Government.”

The Bahamas opened its borders on July 1.

A subsequent email from the Guyana Consulate to stranded Guyanese noted that “persons without permanent residency or valid work permits, expired passports and overstaying their time (except those who are visiting and stranded due to COVID-19) are in breach of immigration laws and subject to arrest, detention and prosecution.”

Guyana’s airports remain closed until August 1 pending a reduction in active COVID-19 cases.

In its updated COVID-19 measures on Thursday, the National COVID-19 Task Force said the Cheddi Jagan and Eugene F. Correia International Airports shall remain closed to all international flights except for outgoing flights, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, technical stops for fuel only and special authorised flights.

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