Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, has appealed to leaders within the regional and international communities to allow the repatriation of citizens, stranded onboard cruise ships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He made the impassioned plea in light of the reported suicide of 28-year-old Mariah Jocson, an assistant waitress onboard a cruise ship anchored in Barbados’ waters.
The Philippine woman was one of 2,000 crew members onboard the Harmony of the Seas awaiting passage to their respective home countries.
They make up a small group of between 150,000 and 200,000 seafarers trapped on these vessels, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
As he extended condolences to the young lady’s family and friends on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, Mr. Humphrey highlighted the need for empathy and compassion during this difficult period.
“Those of us who have been asked to quarantine at home; those of us who have had restrictions on our mobility, it’s been difficult and the mental anguish has been tremendous. [So] imagine the mental anguish being placed on persons onboard these ships. So I’m using this opportunity to ask regional and international leaders to do the right thing,” he urged.
The Minister stressed that although the pandemic has significantly altered life as we know it and resulted in the imposition of stringent measures to contain the virus, attention should be placed on helping these workers to return to their families.
He further pointed out that the repatriation process could be carried out safely, as was evident in Barbados’ efforts to accommodate these vessels and assist with the escort of persons.
“It is in this vein I wish to thank the Prime Minister of Barbados for her leadership in allowing persons to dock and board in Barbados and be repatriated to their various countries.”
He continued: “In the story of the Good Samaritan, as told by Dr. Martin Luther King, he said the question many people ask in moments like these is, ‘if I stop to help these people, what is going to happen to me?’ And the question really has to be reversed. It has to be ‘if I do not help these people, what is going to happen to them?’ That is the question I feel this moment is forcing us to answer, and I hope in the end we all come down on the side of right.”