T&T students in Cuba beg to return as supplies run out

Days after T&T students from Barbados and Jamaica were repatriated, T&T medical students who are currently in Cuba are also seeking repatriation as they say life has become “unbearably tough” for them.

The students say they have run out of personal hygiene products such as soap, toothpaste and sanitary napkins.

Guardian Media has been informed that there are 21 students, 19 of whom are on scholarship in Cuba.

For fear of victimisation, one of the students spoke under strict anonymity explaining how terrible the living conditions have become in Cuba adding that it’s their main reason for pushing to be repatriated until mid-August where they are carded to begin preparation for the next semester of their respective medical studies.

Of the batch of students, 99 per cent are studying to become medical doctors while one other student in pursuing other studies along the same medical field.

The student explained that when classes were suspended in March and the plan was suggested that we do “distance learning” it was already after T&T’s borders were closed.

“Quite frankly it wasn’t until April that they even said we would be doing distance learning. We were basically in the air for a month. Any request as to any possibility of us being repatriated have gone unanswered to date,” the student said.

The first collective letter dated April 2 was sent to the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, asking for repatriation.

The student said the Embassy of Cuba on April 16 asked for people interested in returning home if the possibility arose and they responded to that.

The student added that the Ministry of Education then again asked for persons to express interest in returning home on April 21 and the responses were compiled and submitted to the Ministry of National Security.

On April 26, Young responded saying “Borders closed, stay safe”, the student said.

On May 1 a plane landed in Trinidad carrying 11 Cuban nurses and news of this further saddened the student as she further explained, “I cried for days. I never felt so heartbroken in my life. By the time the end of April hit the reality of the shortages reached an unimaginable level it went from wanting to go home to needing to.”

More students, Guardian Media was told, started writing to the Embassy asking for assistance and to date, they are yet to be responded too.

Guardian Media reached out to the father of one of the students, who begged the T&T Government to “bring them back home as soon as possible.” 

“Let them know when they are reaching home, give them a date. They have to reach back in Cuba for mid-August so they need to come home now because they would have to be in two weeks quarantine and if you do the math now and discover that if a plane goes for them next week after the two weeks quarantine they will basically have three weeks with their families.”

In correspondence to the students on June 8, Young acknowledged receipt of the students’ email and letter.

He, however, noted that his ministry will renew a request to the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs to “communicate with the Cuban Government to assist you all in whatever way that they can.”

Young also reminded the students that the borders of T&T are currently closed to both nationals and non-nationals.

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