Guyanese in Dutch St. Maarten still awaiting word on voluntary evacuation

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 September 2017, 16:41 by Denis Chabrol

Guyanese in storm-ravaged Dutch St. Maarten, who would like to return home, would have to await the resolution of several issues, but all residents there need not worry to much about relief because The Netherlands is sending at least six months of supplies, officials said Saturday.

Guyana’s Honorary Consul to St. Maarten, Cleavland Beresford told Demerara Waves Online News that at two and a half hour meeting of  Guyanese held earlier this week, at least 55 Guyanese – mainly mothers and children- have indicated they are interested in returning to Guyana. However, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix said up to Friday, he was told that 31 persons have said they would like to voluntarily evacuate to Guyana.

Felix said every effort was being made to verify and confirm who would like to return to Guyana because government had no money to waste on airfares. He added that the provision of travel documents to allow Guyanese to leave St Maarten and ensuring that children do not travel unaccompanied were among the issues to be addressed before a date is set for them to land in Guyana.

“Discussions leading to their return are still going on. There are several issues which we need to straighten out before they arrive here,” Felix said, adding that the discussions are advanced and movement would be made “very very shortly”. The Minister said part of the challenge is slow communication with St Maarten whose telephone and internet service had been crushed by Hurricane Irma.

Beresford said the Princess Julianna International Airport would be re-opened to commercial flights next week Saturday, October 6. He reiterated that if Guyanese leave St. Maarten, they would be unable to return to the Dutch territory until another six months.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s relief supplies to the several islands that have been battered by three hurricanes in less than one month will not be sent to St. Maarten because that territory is not part of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

Director-General of Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission, Retired Colonel Chabillal Ramsarup earlier this week told Demerara Waves Online News that several shipping container loads of relief supplies from Guyana were being shipped to mainly Dominica and Anguilla.

The Guyana Honorary Consul to St. Maarten said The Netherlands’ largest warship was heading to Dutch St Maarten with six months of relief supplies, patrol vehicles, heavy duty machinery and other items to support the reconstruction of the territory.