The trinidad Guardian / Unbelievable is the only way I could describe my experience at the ANR Robinson Airport last Monday.
My family of four was returning on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany, which was scheduled to arrive in Tobago at 5.30 pm but was delayed till 6.30 pm due to malfunctioning toilets before takeoff in Frankfurt.
Upon arrival in Tobago, there were approximately 150 non-nationals and about 30 nationals who had to be processed at the immigration counters. There were four immigration officials in place to handle the visitors and one booth designated to handle nationals. But while the visitors’ line progressed smoothly, there was no officer in the booth for nationals.
About ten minutes later, a female officer showed up in the booth and did everything else but attend to the arriving nationals. She appeared to be writing on some document, calling out to colleagues in other booths, talking on her cell phone.
She even had time to chat with two colleagues who were passing by her booth with small talk on how good she was looking, etc, and on four occasions she left her booth while all this time not one national was served.
By this time, weary nationals were everything but patient with this contemptuous servant of the state who could care less of the value of the position she holds, or the potential damage she can cause to her country which already is struggling to attract visitors to the island and is preparing to invest heavily under the well-established name of Sandals.
It was more than 40 minutes before one national was attended to by this official who insisted on taking as long as she could with each person.
Her first was a young mother who was brought to the front of the line as she was with a toddler in arms. For whatever reason she was sent back, maybe because her form was incomplete.
Another woman who moved forward to be served, when her turn reached, was sent back to join the line because the officer was not yet ready to attend to her.
My family and I were fifth in the line when after about an hour of waiting our turn, another female officer, who had been walking past the line several times before, decided to inform the irate, and by this time becoming-noisy nationals, that we should be a little patient because they were short-staffed at the moment.
She eventually had to recoil to where she came from as passengers were not prepared to accept this flimsy excuse and expressed their feelings verbally.
It was clear to everyone that the officer in the booth did not have a clue as to what her job was, or worse, she simply decided to take out her frustration on a few weary nationals hoping to reach home after a long and tedious nine-hour flight.
After about an hour and 20 minutes, our turn came and we were finally through the immigration process to the envy of the remaining nationals in the line. The 150 visitors’ line was nearing completion. When asked for her name the officer replied: “My name is Ms Mohammed.”
Our nightmare didn’t end there. Because we missed our return flight to Trinidad which was scheduled to leave Tobago at 7 pm, we were now told that we had to be placed on a standby list and the only flight that is available to Trinidad was expected to leave at 1.50 am.
As a regular visitor to Tobago for vacation at least once a year, I am now rethinking my options. I wonder how many more nationals and non-nationals share the same view.
Definitely Tobago has a long way to go when to comes to dealing with attracting visitors to the island. But this statement has been said too many times already and it doesn’t get better.
Mr National Security Minister, more training is needed for our point of entry officers. This extremely bad experience is not something new, but something that is potentially harmful to our little jewel called Tobago.