Guyanese living in Holland detained in T&T over vaccine status

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(Trinidad Guardian) – A Guyanese woman, who has been living in Holland for the past 30 years, has been detained in Trinidad since Saturday after she entered the country on a connecting flight to Guyana.

June Ann Gravesande and her three-year-old daughter Daisy Ann, were detained by Immigration officers at Piarco International Airport when she entered the country on a flight from Amsterdam.

The officers told her she was being detained and would be deported as she did not have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Guardian Media contacted National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on Monday evening, asking him to comment.

Hinds said he did not have enough information about the issue and would reach out to Gravesande.

Several hours later, Gravesande’s relatives, who live in Trinidad, said they received messages from her saying she was given clearance to go to Guyana after Hinds’ intervention.

However, a short while later, her relative said she was taken into quarantine as she was told her PCR test was positive.

Earlier in the day, Gravesande told Guardian Media she was travelling with her mother, her nephew and her daughter to Guyana for her father’s funeral, which is to be held on Wednesday.

She said the officers told her she was being detained to be deported as her vaccination record showed she had only received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to her vaccination records, Gravesande received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on June 11, 2021 in the Netherlands.

“We were going to Guyana and transit through Trinidad and Tobago, we are going to Guyana to bury my father,” Gravesande explained.

She said after she handed over her travel documents, she was pulled aside by immigration officers.

“When we came through customs, they asked for all the papers for the vaccines and when I gave mine, they said it is not enough, they took me apart, they questioned me about it. I told them where in Holland if you had corona and you recovered, you have the antibodies in your system, then you can only have one vaccine, there is no need for a second one.”

But the officers did not accept Gravesande’s explanation and detained both her and her daughter.

Her mother and nephew were allowed to continue on to Guyana.

“I have the QR code (for vaccination status) and they didn’t scan it, if they had done so, they would see I am fully vaccinated but they wouldn’t let me through, they gave me a hard time, I begged and pleaded with them, my PCR test was good…I just want to go and bury my father,” she said.

She asked the officers to speak to someone in charge, but that person told her they could not allow her to continue to Guyana, as the country would not accept her without two doses of a vaccine.

She was taken to a hotel close to the airport, where she and her daughter were kept under guard.

“I cannot go to the hotel lobby, much less leave to go outside, the windows are screened off, we cannot get sunlight or fresh air because we cannot go outside, we cannot turn the AC off because we can’t stay in the room without it- and now it is making us sick. How this place is situated with the window blocked and the one door that is locked, if a fire breaks out, we will not be able to escape,” Gravesande said.

She was told by immigration officers she would be deported to Holland on Monday night.

During her conversations with the officers at the hotel, Gravesande was told she would be allowed to travel to Guyana if she was granted an exemption from the Guyanese Health Ministry to enter the country.

“I received the letter today from the COVID task force of Guyana saying they will let me in the country with one dose of the vaccine but right now it’s not looking good, immigration does not want to cooperate so I don’t know. I’m here in the room with my daughter and this is it…” Gravesande said.

Although she was told she would be deported, Gravesande said she was holding out hope that something would change.

“The officers said they are coming for me at 5.45 pm… I spoke to someone from Guyana’s Foreign Ministry who said I was granted the exemption and all the details, including the flight to Guyana were already confirmed. I have one chance when I get to the airport to see if they will allow to go to Guyana or if they will really deport me.”

She said if she was not successful in getting to Guyana by Wednesday, she has already told her family to go ahead with her father’s funeral.

“I don’t want his body to have to stay so long…I told them don’t put it off for me, although it will break me not to be there.”

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