Tue | May 11, 2021

‘We are left in limbo’

J’cans stranded in UK say they have been neglected by Government

Published:Saturday | April 17, 2021 | 12:10 AMGeorge Ruddock/Gleaner Writer

LONDON:

A Jamaican grandmother who came to the United Kingdom (UK) last November to spend two months with her grandchildren is still stuck in Edinburgh, Scotland, with no clear idea when she will get on a flight back to Jamaica.

Angela Clarke’s dilemma is caused from the Jamaican Government’s ban on direct flights from the UK which came into effect last December and was extended to April 13.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced a further extension of the ban to April 30, as part of new curfew measures to stem the surge in COVID-19 infections on the island.

Sharah Handy, speaking on behalf of her mother, said Clarke, 59, was originally scheduled to depart on February 8 on a British Airways flight from London, but, a day before departure, the flight was cancelled.

British Airways, on the other hand, has run a few flights from Kingston to London in March and plans to do so again in April. But these are only to bring back British nationals stuck in Jamaica.

Handy and her mother feel the Jamaican Government is not looking out for its nationals in the way the British are doing for theirs.

She said: “The Jamaican Government has a responsibility for the well-being of its nationals if they are stranded abroad. Why not send for them on the condition that they will quarantine for the 14 days, even after doing a test in the UK before boarding the flight? We would be paying for everything, so it’s not like my mother will be an expense on the Government.

ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

“My mother came to the UK on a visitor’s visa, so she is not entitled to any benefits or facilities here. I had taken out travel insurance before she came here and that has now expired,” Handy said. “She has high blood pressure and walks with the aid of crutches because she has arthritis in her knees and she can’t get her medications.”

She added that the anxiety is causing her mother to be depressed, and, should there be any medical issue, they will end up with a huge medical bill if anything happened to her, and this would also affect her getting another visa to come here to see her grandchildren.

“We are disappointed that the Jamaican Government is not making it easy for persons like her.”

Handy has been in touch with the Jamaica High Commission in London about her mother’s plight and she said, while they have been helpful by keeping in touch, there is not much they can do as it is up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Health and Wellness to make arrangements to get their nationals home.

She said: “Why not make the Jamaican nationals a priority because they are the most vulnerable as there is no support for them here. Luckily, my mother is with family, but what about others who don’t have that kind of support? This cannot be something to be ignored.”

LEFT IN LIMBO

Clarke is among a number of Jamaican nationals facing similar problems.

Paulette Williams, from Lewisham, south London, complains that her mother passed away in Jamaica in January and family members have not been able to secure any flights to get home to bury her.

Williams said: “Our flights have been cancelled at least three times since January, and it seems the next opportunity will be after the ban might be lifted this month. I’m fully aware that there is a pandemic and Jamaica has to protect itself from any additional variant of the virus entering the island, but to ban flights from the UK where the infection numbers are going down and people are getting vaccinated, why still close your borders to the UK but leave it open to other countries?

“We are left in limbo with no idea when it will end. My mother didn’t have any relatives in Jamaica, and the last thing we would want is to have her buried without her family from England being present.

When contacted, Jamaica’s High Commissioner Seth George Ramocan noted that the mission is aware of the stranded Jamaicans and the inconvenience they are facing.

He said that the high commission is in touch with most of these persons and they are anxious to return home.

“The Government of Jamaica has been working tirelessly to minimise the spread and impact of the virus, in the interest of its nationals at home and abroad, particularly those who are stranded overseas.

“The discovery of the UK variance in Jamaica, and an inadequate number of vaccines coupled with some who fail to comply with the safety protocols, have caused escalations that have overwhelmed our hospitals and other pandemic infrastructure. Consequently, the ban on flights into Jamaica has regrettably had to be maintained in the interest of the safety of our nationals,” Ramocan said.