Since they are also citizens of the United States (US) the first group of five left the troubled capital of Cairo on flights to New York. They were given preference to leave the chaotic Cairo International Airport where thousands converged seeking flights.
The Trinidad and Tobago Government has therefore made arrangements for 17 nationals who remained holed up in Cairo for yet another tense day in the North African country where there has been bloody civil unrest for the past ten days against president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
A relative of one national who has dual citizenship confirmed the man and his family flew out of Cairo.
Hafeeza Hosein, of El Socorro, said her son, Faizudeen, 40, left Cairo with his wife Nazima and their two children yesterday morning. “My other children in the US spoke to him and he said they were sitting in the plane for over two hours. Thanks to God for everything,” Hosein said.
Sixteen tickets were issued electronically to the remaining Trinidadians by Shanti’s Travel Agency on instructions from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Manager of the travel agency in Port-of-Spain, Naroupa Lakhan, confirmed to Newsday that the tickets were issued but declined to reveal the identity of the persons in Egypt and the cost. “Yes, the tickets were issued yesterday, but we have been advised by the ministry not to disclose information to the media,” Lakhan said.
Travel agents said the cost per ticket given the current rush to leave Egypt, could be between $17,000 and $19,000 per person to travel from that country to London, and then Port-of-Spain.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Suruj Rambachan yesterday said Government had spent $200,000 on airfare to fly Trinidad and Tobago nationals from Egypt. He was addressing yesterday’s post- Cabinet news conference which he chaired in place of a conspicuously absent Government Information Service (GIS) head, Andy Johnson, who last week reined in reporters’ queries by vowing to read the proverbial riot act. Rambachan said, “We had some difficulty getting flights for the 22 citizens out of Egypt.”
He explained among these nationals, five members of one family had travelled out of Egypt using their US passports, accompanied by their father travelling on a TT passport.
He did not name the family.
The Minister said another family tried to go to South Africa.
“Four members of one family were supposed to go to South Africa but this morning they were told by South Africa that they were not going to be receiving anybody from Egypt, and therefore they too are now coming to Trinidad,” he said. Rambachan hopes nationals will begin returning home tomorrow with all back in the country by Monday.
When Newsday spoke yesterday to Hisham Muhammed, 35, who is in Egypt with his wife and family, Muhammed said they had been informed by Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner in Uganda about the airline tickets.
Muhammed said, “The situation is still tense and having gotten off the phone a while ago with Mr Patrick Edwards (High Commissioner in Kampala, Uganda), I can safely say everything is in place. We’re just awaiting tickets now.”
His brother-in-law, Barry D’ade, who is also in Egypt with his wife, Afifah, also spoke to Newsday. “It’s a situation where anything could happen anytime. But today was not bad as before. Things look a bit clearer, but as I say, it’s better we leave here,” D’ade said.
But shortly after Newsday’s telephone interview at about midday, more violence erupted in Tahrir Square in Cairo between demonstrators and Mubarak’s supporters, when Mubarak issued a statement that he was afraid his country could descend into chaos if he steps down from power immediately.
The demonstrations by more than two million anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square, wants the 88-year-old president to immediately step down from the presidency after 30 years in power in order to facilitate democratic changes to the country’s constitution.
ABC news reported yesterday that 1,500 people were injured in bloody clashes and the army which has been keeping pro-Mubarak supporters at bay, and the country were preparing for an escalation of demonstrations at Tahrir Square following the Friday congregational prayers today.
Yesterday, Tedwin Herbert, head of the Asia, Africa, Middle East, Pacific Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Port-of-Spain, told Newsday, “As the situation escalates, our efforts are aimed at getting the nationals out of the country as soon as possible. We are trying to arrange tickets as quickly as possible. Our mission in Kampala is working round-the-clock to ensure they leave in the shortest possible time. We are aware that the situation has escalated.”
Yesterday, Muhammed’s mother, Taslima, of Kelly Village, said, “I heard the situation is really bad today. I pray that they all leave safe Insha Allah (God willing). We have been praying a lot for their safe return.”