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Rowley opens T&T doors to Dominica

Published: 
Friday, September 22, 2017
Members of the T&T Defence Force being briefed before joining Dominica police in patrols to maintain civil stability following the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has proposed that this country open its doors and waive immigration restrictions so that Dominicans left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Maria can find shelter in T&T.

Speaking during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Rowley said while T&T was not in a position to contribute financially to the reconstruction of Dominica, accommodation was one of the things we could offer.

“Certainly in situations like these, whatever we have available to us, we the people of T&T have always been a generous people and would want to share,” Rowley, adding Dominican government officials have said there were tens of thousands without shelter or means of sustenance due to the devastation caused by Maria earlier this week.

“If they (Dominicans) could make their way to T&T and find a household to accept them we will waive restrictions to their entry for a period of six-months.”

The restriction waiver means affected Dominica citizens can make their way to T&T once it is established they have family or friends to house them. T&T citizens who have the means and are willing to volunteer space in their homes were also encouraged to approach the Government to offer assistance. Rowley said details for citizens willing to assist would be provided over the next two days.

“If you do have accommodations and you have the means and inclination to support a Dominican, arrangements will be made to identify yourself and for the next six months T&T will open our doors, homes, pots and I dare say our schools to citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica,” the PM said.

Asked about a screening process for Dominican nationals, Rowley said no one who would not have been able to enter the country under normal circumstances would be able to enter as part of Government’s generosity.

During the six-month period, Rowley said Dominicans who enter T&T would not do so under a refugee status and children may be able to attend school here for that period. At the end of six months, regular arrangements for citizens of Caricom would apply, he said.

According to Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Stuart Young, the Government sent immediate assistance to Dominica on Tuesday. A T&T Coast Guard vessel took members of the Defence Force, first responders and supplies to Dominica, but up until around 2 pm yesterday had been unable to dock due to the state of the port there.

A National Helicopter Services Limited helicopter also landed in St Lucia on Tuesday and has made multiple trips to Dominica to take relief and transport technical experts there with the goal of re-establishing some communications infrastructure. Another T&T Coast Guard vessel is expected to take additional supplies.

Yesterday, the Ministry of National Security also announced that it had collaborated with the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Lives (FEEL) to establish collection points for citizens who were interested in donating to relief efforts to drop off items.

T&T is still offering relief assistance to Antigua and Barbuda after those islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma just over one week ago. See Page A5