Govt to develop policy to assist overseas-based Guyanese affected by natural disasters
Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix has assured that the Government is working with various stakeholders to develop a draft national policy, which will outline a coordinated approach for assisting Guyanese based in Caribbean territories, who are affected by natural disasters.
Minister Felix made this announcement on Monday moments after chairing a meeting held with aircraft owners and operations and various Government entities, to streamline efforts to facilitate the return of Guyanese from the hurricane-ravaged island, The Bahamas, and to get feedback on the drafting of the policy.
“This meeting has guided us to a path of seeking further guidance on best practices in chartering the response that we need, which at the end of the day seeks to ensure that the interest of Guyanese is attended to in circumstances of disasters and any misfortune which may befall them outside of Guyana.
“At the end of this exercise, we should develop a policy to respond to the needs of Guyanese outside of Guyana,” the Minister told the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Minister informed that the stakeholders’ meeting was held based on a Cabinet directive, which was handed down last week. Monday was the second time that the meeting was held.
He further added that the 2017 response to Hurricane Irma, which affected the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Turks and Caicos and St Maarten, has created a “template by which future disasters of whatever magnitude can be responded to, with particular steps to be taken along the way”.
In relation to the situation in The Bahamas, Minister Felix said that there is an option available to address the repatriation of the 23 Guyanese who have expressed their desire to return. He pointed out that this number can change as there are another 108 persons, who have yet to indicate what their desire is.
“So, work goes on and the Guyanese public will be kept informed as decisions are taken,” the Minister assured.
He said too that the meeting discussed an approach to Caribbean Airlines for humanitarian assistance to bring home the affected Guyanese in The Bahamas.
“This was done because it was observed that the range of aircraft in Guyana would not take them to The Bahamas without them having to stop for refuelling on a couple of occasions. Then, there is another option, where Government can be invited to subsidise the cost of the aircraft bringing returning Guyanese… and the third is the employment of the [GDF] sky van to assist in the return of Guyanese from The Bahamas,” Minister Felix said.
It was suggested that Government deploy a point-person from CDC to The Bahamas to work along with the Guyana Honorary Consul, to assess the needs of Guyanese prior to the decision to repatriate them.