An outgoing Insel Air flight, 81-791, to Aruba and other connecting destinations, was yesterday cancelled and the plane grounded after the pilot refused to transport eight Indian nationals who were refused entry to Guyana
since July 19.
Kaieteur News was told that Immigration Officers ordered Insel Air officials to take the men out of the jurisdiction yesterday morning but the pilot refused, claiming that the flight was filled.
The men had arrived in Guyana on an Insel Air flight on one-way tickets and without visas.
Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, told this newspaper yesterday that a plane containing the Indian Nationals landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on July 19 and for some obvious reasons, they were detained by immigration officials at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
According to the Minister, the reasons include the absence of visas and the fact that they were travelling on one-way tickets. Also, the men could not show evidence of how they would have been able to sustain themselves during their stay in the country.
“According to international travel policy, airlines accepting passengers to visit a foreign country are supposed to ensure they have a valid passport… visa if necessary, and a two-way ticket,” Minister Felix explained.
He added that after they were refused entry, the men were kept in custody of the Guyana Police Force.
Felix revealed that local citizens had made representations for the Indian nationals to be released, but the administration refused to take that course. He maintained that it was the airline that was responsible for the men’s return to their originating destination.
“They brought them here without the proper legal requirements; we should not be straddled with the responsibility of keeping them,” Felix told this newspaper.
Local authorities then took the decision to have the men placed on an Insel Air departing flight since they had no legal standing in Guyana.
Yesterday, as the men were about to board the aircraft, the crew refused to let them on the plane. This led to a stand-off , with local immigration maintain their position that the airline take the men back to where they had brought them from.
Eventually a decision was made for the flight to be cancelled as the airline also refused to budge.
As a result, several other passengers who were scheduled to depart on the aircraft were left stranded.
The Cheddi Jagan International Airport in a statement late yesterday afternoon, confirmed that the Central Immigration Office at Timehri had grounded the carrier, which was scheduled to depart at 06:45 hrs.
“According to reports, the aircraft was not permitted to depart CJIA until arrangements were made to transport the Indian nationals out of the jurisdiction. These nationals arrived in Guyana on July 19, 2015, but were refused entry into the country for various immigration reasons and have been in the custody of the Guyana Police Force since then.”
CJIA said it is investigating the incident and regrets any inconvenience caused to passengers booked on the flight.
The other passengers were on the plane for two hours when they were asked to disembark the aircraft.
The illegal Indian nationals were then seen sitting on the tarmac of the airport as Immigration and airline officials tried to settle the issue.
Passengers said they were left in the dark, except that they were told that it was an immigration issue which needed to be resolved.
“They didn’t tell us much…just that there was an immigration issue. Eventually they told us it was resolved, but then later they told us that we needed to exit the plane,” one passenger told Kaieteur News.
Several other passengers voiced frustration over the incident since they were affected.
The flight to Aruba was scheduled to leave Guyana at 06:45hrs, with connecting flights to Curacao, Miami and other destinations. Many of the passengers had been at the airport for hours. They claimed that they waited for an official explanation about how the situation would be handled, but it was not until around 10:36hrs that an Insel Air official announced that all passengers should go home and return today.
The passengers claimed that no compensation was offered by the airline.
“Some passengers have paid a substantial amount of money to get to the airport and some of us were hungry, tired, on medication and without cash. Our family members are awaiting our arrival, but we have no answers for them,” another passenger told this publication.
Daphne King said that her family “has special business to conduct in Curaçao by tomorrow (this) afternoon, and this delay will greatly affect our plans and also our finances. Again, I express displeasure about the way this matter is being handled and I am prepared to take legal action against the airline”.
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