Parents of Bahamian students trapped in U.K. ask Minnis for help

A group of Bahamian parents wrote to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis asking him to help arrange for their children, who are studying in the United Kingdom, to be repatriated to The Bahamas as soon as possible.

The government recently organized return flights out of Florida for Bahamians stuck in the United States.

In a letter to Minnis, dated Saturday, May 23, 2020, Renea Pennerman wrote, “I am writing on behalf of a number of parents who, like me, have children at university in the U.K.

“We would like your assistance in bringing our children home as soon as possible. We have formed a group to agitate for bringing our children home on a repatriation flight, for which we collectively are willing to pay.

Pennerman asked Minnis for help in two areas: waiving the requirement for Bahamians and residents returning to The Bahamas from the U.K. to be tested for COVID-19, and to direct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make travel arrangements for Bahamians trapped in the U.K.

Pennerman wrote, “Although we are willing to pay, we are unable to arrange it as British Airways can only arrange this with a government, not a private citizen, due to airports being closed and emergency orders being in place,” she wrote in the letter, which was sent to the prime minister on Saturday.

Pennerman added, “…We would like you to give a directive to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to immediately make the necessary arrangements for Bahamians to be repatriated from the U.K. as soon as possible. “

The Office of the Prime Minister had not responded to the letter up to press time.

Pennerman continued, “Universities in the United Kingdom are now closed and exams are over. Students will have to vacate dorms very soon.

“As this very situation spurred your government to action in the case of students in the United States, we trust you will be consistent and apply this same standard to those students in the United Kingdom. These students are much farther away from home so we anticipate your favorable response.”

Last week, The Nassau Guardian revealed that seven people who had not been tested for COVID-19 were repatriated to The Bahamas with the approval of Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) Director General Captain Charles Beneby.

Those individuals were supposed to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival to New Providence, according to a letter written by Beneby.

However, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen told The Guardian that those individuals would be tested for the virus if they began to display symptoms of the virus while in government quarantine.

For this reason, Pennerman said the government should waive COVID-19 testing for Bahamians stuck in the U.K.

She noted that “only those who are symptomatic are being tested for COVID-19 by the NHS (National Health Service).”

“Despite exhaustive searches by everyone, we are unable to find a private lab to carry out the test as required by the Bahamian government,” Pennerman wrote.

“So, we are unable to meet the testing requirement. It is for these reasons we request this requirement be waived for the Bahamians in the U.K. as it was for the Bahamians who came home from Jamaica last week.”

She said the Bahamian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom Ellison Greenslade has written to several parents informing them that he was not aware of any labs that are able to test the students.

Greenslade could not be reached for comment.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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