153 GIA Passengers Stranded In Barbados
153 GIA Passengers Stranded In Barbados Website
One hundred and fifty three passengers, made up of Ghanaians and some Nigerians, are stranded in Barbados after arriving on the island aboard a Ghana International Airlines (GIA) charter flight from Accra. After two postponements of the return flight on February 15 and February 29, 2008, the passengers are reported to have run out of money and many of them have resorted to working illegally as labourers. Barbados government officials say some of the passengers have officially requested for work permits to allow them to support themselves while in that country. Reacting to the situation, the GIA said it was contracted by Season's Travel and Thurs, a company certified by the Ghana Tourist Board to permit a charter tour operation, to airlift the passengers to the Caribbean island on February 1, 2008 and that its services were paid for. The tour operator had defaulted in paying for the return flight, especially when the government of that country required the GIA to fly empty to that country, a situation which could not be borne by the operator since it entailed extra cost, Ms Gifty Annan-Myers, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the GIA, told the Daily Graphic in a telephone interview. The Barbados Ministry of Transport, Works and International Transport has stated that it is doing everything to ensure that the stranded passengers return home successfully. A statement reportedly issued on the stranded passengers said the Ghanaians were among those who, on February 1, 2008, visited that country for a two-week stay, adding that as a result of the breakdown of private tour arrangements, the government had intervened and was actively seeking ways to facilitate their repatriation. The visit, it noted, was organised through a private sector arrangement by the Ghanaian tour company, using a Barbadian counterpart as ground handler. The first indication received by the Ministry of Transport, Works and International Transport of any intention to operate a direct charter service from Ghana to Barbados was an e-mail application dated January 17, 2008 from the GIA, in association with Season's Travel and Thurs, to permit a charter tour operation into Barbados on January 20, 2008 and depart the next dayt the statement said. Having received the application, the ministry said, it queried the actual period of the tour, since no return date had been given, but on January 28, 2008, a revised application was received from the GIA, stating in part that the revised dates were now January 31, 2008, with a subsequent service on February 15 to return passengers. It said on January 29, 2008, the GIA advised the ministry that it should expect 160 passengers in Barbados on January 31, 2008, out of which 40 would be proceeding to other Caribbean countries via alternative arrangements. The remaining 120 were to return to Ghana on the flight on February 15, 2008. Based on the arrangement and exchanges, a permit for the charter was issued to the GIA and, according to immigration documents, 153 passengers were landed in Barbados from the GIA flight, including those going to other Caribbean countries. The Barbados government said the local ground handling agency for Season's Travel and Tours had been very proactive in efforts to repatriate the passengers, while it was taking urgent steps, through Ghana's High Commission, towards the speedy repatriation of the stranded passengers.