In the spring, area farmers fought to get their usual off-shore workers to Canada but now one farmer is saying he can’t get his employees home to Trinidad.
“These guys seem to be stuck,” Delhi tobacco farmer, said Mike Bouw.
Bouw has seven migrant workers who have been labouring on Bouw Farm this year.
“The Trinidad border has been closed and it was tricky to get them up here, but now they’re in limbo with winter coming.”
With work on his farm done, Bouw has reached out to other farmers to see if his men can work elsewhere. Most of the harvests are finished.
“We have nothing for them to do so they’re just sitting around the bunkhouse.”
And those buildings aren’t meant for winter living.
“We just want to get them home as quickly and safely as possible but they need an exemption and the guys are telling me their Ministry of National Security (in Trinidad) has to sign off on the exemptions to clear them to come home.”
Trinidad has an especially low incidence of the COVID-19 virus at this point and its borders remain closed to international flights unless specifically permitted. Trinidadians returning from low-risk countries have to have a recent negative test for COVID-19 and self-quarantine, while those returning from high-risk countries will have a medical assessment and be quarantined for seven days.
Bouw’s workers had flights booked on three dates this month but, without permission to return home, they keep getting pushed back.
“We put in our requests for their exemptions a month ahead of time and gave them an end date well beyond that. It’s creating a real problem here on the farm.”
Postmedia did not get a response from the Trinidad and Tobago Consulate in Toronto but a spokesperson for CanAg, which arranges busing and flights for farm workers, said the matter is out of that agency’s hands.
“Exemptions are not being received in a timely manner for farm workers to travel home to Trinidad and Tobago. The situation is entirely in the hands of the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Labour.”
Bouw has been on the phone daily with CanAg and has talked to the Trinidadian liaison from the consulate in Toronto.
“I bug them daily for any news but they said, ‘Check back in November’. November! This is just a terrible situation for our guys.”