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‘SEND US HOME’ – Lambirds Academy Students’ Plea

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DESPITE having previous concerns about returning to their native Nepal empty-handed, some former Lambirds Academy students now seem willing to choose repatriation over money.

Speaking to The VOICE last Friday afternoon, close to a dozen of the estimated 50 foreigners still stuck here after the learning institution was closed last February, said they are frustrated beyond words about their plight.

Twenty-three-year-old Abinesh Bikram Bista said he’s had enough of the whole situation and just wants to restore normalcy to his life.

“I really want to go back to my country because I lost my siblings, my brothers, in the last earthquake that devastated my country,” Bista said. “I have been saying this to the Saint Lucian government – either at Ministry of Home Affairs or the crime branch.”

Bista said local authorities have told him and the other former students that they must be kept here as witnesses until the last case is completed. Nevertheless, he, like many others, is getting homesick.

“So our request to the Saint Lucian government is to allow us to go back home and keep those students who want to stay back as witnesses,” Bista explained.

Bista told The VOICE that he and some of his countrymen are willing to return home without their tuition and other monies they spent to take up courses at Lambirds Academy. Should the court case be ruled in their favour, he said, their monies can be sent to them in Nepal. If the court does not rule in their favour, he said, the students will understand.

“There are a lot of students who want to do their Bachelor’s Degree,” Bista said. “But if they stay here for one year doing nothing, then one year is lost. So it’s directly impacting and affecting our future. We can’t stay back for this long.”

Bista said some of the former students still maintain that they are not willing to return to Nepal without their monies while most are prepared to await the outcome of the charges brought against Lambirds Academy’s Executive Director, Iftekhar Ahmed Shams, who has been charged with money laundering and human trafficking. All of the students have since made statements to the police regarding their situation at Lambirds Academy.

He added that whenever the former students indicate to local authorities that they have now changed their minds about staying in Saint Lucia until they received their expended finances up front, they are being referred to other agencies that also do not provide solutions.

He said the referrals have been going on for some time now and some former students are becoming increasingly frustrated. He compared the past six months of waiting in Saint Lucia to being paralyzed.

For five weeks now, about 45 of the former students have been staying at guest houses in the city and Bista said at least 30 of them have indicated that they are now willing to return home via the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s offer. With no classes to attend and no means of earning a pay cheque despite government assisting with the foreigners’ accommodation, Bista said he and his fellow comrades feel useless.

“We are all frustrated,” Bista told The VOICE. “Either give us part-time jobs or send us back home because we really care about our future.”

Bista, who came here to study hospitality and tourism management, said his request is an urgent one, adding that he lost his brothers in the earthquake that decimated Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, in April. Being the eldest child, he said it’s now up to him to take care of his parents. His father is currently unemployed and his home was mortgaged in order for him to take up studies at Lambirds Academy, he said.

The former students’ requests come months after they refused to return home via assistance rendered by the IOM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here. Many of them refused to sign the IOM waiver, claiming that some of the terms and conditions contained in the document were disadvantageous to them. After months of being in limbo here in Saint Lucia, they now seem willing to take up the IOM’s offer.

At the time the IOM’s offer was initially made, many of them said that should they return to Nepal without the monies they owed, they risked facing death by their creditors. Bista and the former students The VOICE spoke to last Friday now seem willing to take their chances.

“The bank is about to seize my house, so I really need to go back,” Bista said. “Either I go back home or apply to some other countries, earn some money or go back to the cruise line. I have visas for a cruise line that’s waiting for me. I have a contract with them back there. I cannot stay here for just US$7000 owed to me. The government here might be looking after me but who’s looking after my old parents?”

Another former student, Rajan Thebe, 21, came to Lambirds Academy to take up a front office course. With those hopes now dashed, he is now resigned to waiting on the legal matters against Shams to take their course and receiving a once-a-week phone call from his parents.

“It’s been really frustrated staying here,” Thebe said. “Whenever my parents and relatives call me, they just want me there. I lost my home in Nepal and they want me to be there to support them. I just want to go home”

Sabal Lamichhane, 23, tells a similar story. He came to Lambirds Academy to study laundry, cooking and baking. Today he finds it difficult coping with the stresses he has experienced as a result of his ill-fated choices, he said.

“It’s been very tough. I think the government is not supporting us right now because we want to go home. The earthquake has devastated everything. I, too, have lost one of my family members,” Lamichhane said.

According to Lamichhane, local authorities should take the former students’ appeal into consideration, especially since the process of the case against Shams and his co-defendants might go on for some time.

“The government should assist those who want to go back home to do so and let the others remain if they want to,” Lamichhane told The VOICE.

The VOICE contacted the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday regarding the former students’ claims. However, we were told that both the Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary were out of office for the day. An official from that ministry told The VOICE that a comment from that office might be forthcoming shortly.

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...

3 Comments

  1. This dirty lowdown filthy business of human trafficking is inexcusable. We do not live in a bubble or in a parallel universe, we all read or watch the News on the T.V. For one to be caught up in this mess, is not only dumb and stupid, it is nothing less than criminal.
    It is a well known fact that the source of all this evil stems from nothing less than greed and theft, locally and internationally. While the international crooks are hard at it, making peoples lives miserable, they have found willing allies on a rock called St. Lucia, ruled by a bunch of hungry inhabitants, willing to sell their souls for a filthy Dime. Over the years, succeeding administrations have allowed foreigners like Syrians to settle here buying out businesses, getting rich while stupid Lucians look on in amazement..
    Now comes the East Indians, the worse lot from Bangladesh with an international reputation of a toilet, and you so called Government Ministers can tell us, you didn’t know? if you did not know then it’s time you through in the towel. I submit that you the Government are complicit in all that dirty business for one reason, and one reason only.

  2. So now they want to go back. Bista has a visa for a cruise sip waiting for him. How did he get that while he has been in SLU for the past 7 months?

  3. i got lots of money from dr. ifthikher ahmed shams, he gave canada visa on 2013 but he did not keep commitment and he will go st. lucia, i am poor man , plz send my all payment easly , my totally mone is $18750 dollar. plz plz do something for me, i am from bangladeshi. i have all documents.

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