Guyanese in hurricane-torn BVI want children to return home


first_img– PPP says Govt must act swiftly to evacuate Guyanese desirous of coming homeCitizenship MinisterWinston FelixThe Guyana Government’s delegation has returned from Antigua, St Maarten and the British Virgin Islands, where the Needs Assessment Team was sent in the wake of Hurricane Irma.Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, who spearheaded that team, on Thursday met with members of the local media corps and briefed them on some of the relief initiatives Government is currently considering and to provide a first-hand account of the extent of the devastation.According to Minister Felix, in addition to food, building and medical supplies, some of the affected Guyanese have been inquiring about the possible evacuation from the devastated islands to Guyana, specifically of school-aged children.He explained that many of the Guyanese have expressed a willingness to remain on the Caribbean islands in order to cash in on the rebuilding efforts.According to Felix, the information supplied to him and his team indicates that in St Maarten there are some 7000 Guyanese domiciled, while in Tortola, BVI, the population stands around 1500.Aerial footage illustrates the extent of the damage in BVI (KCRA.com)Felix was quick to point out that whatever relief efforts that would be made by Government, it would be incumbent on the Governments of those countries to spearhead the local relief efforts and the supplies would not be sent directly to Guyanese groupings.Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who was on hand for the press engagement, had earlier indicated that Guyana currently has 10 containers of supplies ready for delivery to Antigua – the designated hub for all of the relief efforts pouring into the region.According to Minister Harmon, Government has secured the assistance of the British Government, through the local High Commissioner, for use of a C-130 military cargo aircraft in order to transport the supplies from Guyana to Antigua.Felix also used the opportunity to highlight shortcomings encountered by the team which he said were due in part to the extent of the damage to the communities that led to the Diaspora members being unprepared for the visit.This was compounded by curfews that had been set in place both in St Maarten and Tortola, BVI. Felix told media operatives the team was unable to travel to the neighbouring Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke or Anegada, the other two of the larger populated islands in the BVI where Guyanese currently reside.Providing an extensive briefing, Minister Felix reported that the Needs Assessment team was flown to St Maarten, by chartered aircraft, where there was complete devastation of the island much like Barbuda – which has since had to evacuate all of the residents to the neighbouring sister island of Antigua.According to Minister Felix, “there we met total devastation of the island” with many houses in sight being without roof, electricity or water. Telephone services have also been disrupted and “there was severe damage to property”, he added.The team did manage to meet with a pocket of Guyanese living in St Maarten and they “all expressed the need for assistance in terms of building materials, water, bedding and items to make them comfortable”.He did report, however, that while they would have been able to meet with a few representatives in St Maarten, “they were so badly affected that the level of preparation we expected there, we did not have it, so we did not meet large numbers of Guyanese, remember those persons were also affected by the Hurricane.”According to Felix, the team while in Tortola managed to meet with a small number of Guyanese, estimated to be between 80 and 100.He told media operatives the team did manage to traverse the British Overseas Territory, where they were able to have a first-hand assessment of the extent of the damage in addition to meeting with BVI’s Premier, Dr Orlando Smith.According to Felix, while the requests from the Guyanese living in Tortola were similar to those heard in St Maarten in relation to food and medical supplies, they needed some additional supplies.He spoke to the need for vector control materials such as treated mosquito nets as a result of the mosquitoes.Minister Felix was quick to also point out that during his meetings with Guyanese living in Tortola, “many of them did not want, they did not express a need to return to Guyana, those we met did not express a need to return to Guyana, but they wanted their children return.”He told media operatives that this request posed a situation that would have to be carefully managed given the immigration and other demands that could make the process a tedious one.“Unaccompanied children on travel is never advisable particularly where the aircraft might not be 1, a private charter, so that is a situation we have to manage carefully.”The Minister did point out that the Guyanese delegation has made some recommendations namely, Antigua be made the staging point or hub for the relief efforts and that children returning to Guyana be accompanied by an adult.It was reported that the Guyana Government has agreed to also repatriate to Guyana Dereck Ragnauth’s corpse. The 55-year-old Guyanese perished in the BVI when his house collapsed killing him during Hurricane Irma.The Office of the Leader of the Opposition, in an earlier statement, had reiterated calls made by the PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo for government to act swiftly to initiate steps to evacuate Guyanese desirous of coming home. The PPP General Secretary noted that Hurricane Irma has practically reduced some of these islands to ground zero. “It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Government of Guyana to take immediate action,” it said.The PPP also expressed sincere hopes that the rebuilding process will be swift; and a smooth and successful implementation of all emergency interventions, both infrastructural and humanitarian.last_img

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