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General News of Sunday, 24 February 2008

Source: MARIA BRADSHAW/The Sunday Sun

Stranded Ghanaians Working Bajan Construction Site

A GROUP OF GHANAIANS, who arrived on the Carribean Island of Barbados two-and-a-half-weeks ago on an inaugural flight from Ghana and have been left stranded, are now working on a construction site.

The Bajan newspaper, SUNDAY SUN, last week tracked down and found about ten of the visitors, working on a site on the outskirts of town.

They were among 149 passengers from Accra, Ghana, and Lagos, Nigeria, who arrived in Barbados on February 1, on a direct flight.

It is understood that some of the passengers went on to St Lucia and Trinidad, while an undisclosed number remained here.

The flight was due to return to pick them up on February 15, but never did.

The men told the SUNDAY SUN they had run out of cash to pay for their accommodation and food bills and that was why they were working.

In fact, they are so impressed with the island that they want to spread the word so other Ghanaians can also come and find work.

"In our country we have to work. We cannot be idle and we have to go back and tell our people about our experience here so that they can come and find work too," said one of the men.

When contacted about the matter on Thursday, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said Government was making efforts to get the flight to return to pick up the stranded Africans.

"I understand that there have been some challenges. It is being worked on by the relevant authorities. We hope to have a speedy resolution to this event," he said.

However, when informed that about ten men were working, Sealy said: "I don't know about that. It is news to me."

The men, who speak English and are in their late 20s and early 30s, said they went to the Immigration Department after discovering that the flight did not return to ask for an extension to their stay and work permits, but were turned down.

The SUNDAY SUN was unable to reach anyone at the department who could confirm the men's claims.

Messages were left for Acting Chief Immigration Officer Marva Farmer last week, but up to Press time there was no return call.

When questioned about the men's immigration claims, Sealy said that would have to be addressed by the Prime Minister who was responsible for immigration. We were unable to reach the Prime Minister.

Chief Technical Officer at the Ministry of International Transport, Valerie Browne, confirmed that her ministry was aware of the stranded passengers.

"The ministry is in touch with the airline which organised the original flight and we understand that all efforts are being made to expedite a return flight," she said.

The SUNDAY SUN also spoke to marketing and sales director of Remac Tours, George Knight, the local agents involved in organising the flight.

He, too, said he was aware of the situation, but assured that Government was actively working on it.

That flight landed at Grantley Adams International Airport around 4:20 a.m. on February 1, and at that time, officials indicated that since everything had not been finalised, there were no further flights being planned until later in the year.

The Ghanaian side of the tour was handled by Seasons Travel Tours, while Dr Ntui Okey, of the Trans-African Centre for Trade was responsible for bringing Remac and Seasons together.

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