The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis and challenge unlike any we have ever experienced. The Embassy of Saint Lucia in the United States, and our Consulates in Miami, New York and Toronto continue to operate and field calls from nationals – be they students, parents and or other parties, on how they can assist in this time of uncertainty. Specific to our nationals employed by the cruise industry, we are collaborating with other government agencies on contacting the various lines and representative agencies to determine the total number of Saint Lucians that are currently in their employ. We are also discussing pointedly, the specific measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of our nationals who make up their crew.
We continue to work on plans of action related to logistical arrangements associated with when and where ships will dock and the transporting of our nationals home. Our ability to provide specifics as to when our people can return depends on the location of the vessel, US Customs and Border Patrol (the agency that has to clear the vessel and those who disembark), and the opening of ports (including our own), and the coordination of flights.
In addition to nationals employed by the cruise industry, we continue to engage through our representative offices, citizens who were vacationing in the United States and Canada, as well as those who were studying, when various rules and regulations were implemented at the state, province and national levels. Specifically, as it relates to students, we are in regular contact with officials at these colleges and universities, receiving updates on provisions being made associated with access to housing and meals.
Our offices are also in regular contact with the relevant federal authorities in the United States and Canada, and we are actively sharing with our nationals the process to undertake in order to file for extensions to their stays in the respective jurisdictions, should that be necessary. We are also endeavoring to keep track of the status of our nationals in order for us to protect them from being disadvantaged in terms of future access to North America as a result of overstaying, through no fault of their own.
The Department of External Affairs and our offices in North America are committed to seeing the safe return of our nationals to Saint Lucia as soon as possible.