(BARBADOS TODAY) – Dozens of CARICOM nationals including sex workers and some employed in cosmetology are said to be among those hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
And they are pleading with diplomats stationed here for assistance with their basic needs and to secure their passage back home at the earliest opportunity.
One affected Jamaican who specializes in hair and makeup admitted that in late October she came into the country as an exotic dancer. She explained that although she was making “good” money during her first five months, almost all of it has been repatriated to her elderly father and her five-year-old son.
“The food is running out right now and I need to go to the supermarket because I only have food for maybe one week and after that, I won’t have anything else besides toilet paper and water,” said the woman who asked to remain anonymous.
“Right now, my father in Jamaica has nothing and I was the one helping him. I used to send money for him to make sure he had food, but now I can’t even send $50,” she explained.
Meanwhile, President of the local Adult Industry Association (AIA) Charles Charlie Spice Lewis says the tight economic situation is pushing some to offer exotic dancing and other services online. But he fears that others have already started breaking the ongoing curfew to earn their daily bread.
While the prospect of higher income attracted many CARICOM nationals in more prosperous times, they would now rather endure the uncertainties of the Coronavirus in the company of loved ones in their home country.
“Jamaica is a place where if you don’t have anything, you can ask your neighbour and you would get it. That’s why most of us are vexed that we aren’t in Jamaica. Even if things are hard in Jamaica, we would have had it easier because here we have no family or friends to turn to,” one exotic dancer told Barbados TODAY.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness recently announced his Government’s intention to open the country’s ports to allow “controlled” re-entry of Jamaicans stranded overseas for the first time since March 24.
He, however, warned that the country’s struggling healthcare sector could not absorb the pressure of large-scale re-entry.
“Dem haffi do something fi we, because we can’t stay inna de people dem country any longer. We are running out of food. We don’t have any money. It’s like we’re living in a desert,” said one worker, who claims she tried desperately to flee Barbados before Kingston’s borders were closed.
“Even if they can’t give us money, we would like a voucher for the supermarket to get things that we need. We really need some kind of help, man, because most of the things that they put in place are for the citizens and it doesn’t go for the foreigners dem. It’s like we don’t even exist,” she said, referring to recent welfare measures rolled out by the Mia Mottley administration.
Efforts to reach the office of Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Barbados Ella Hoyos were unsuccessful. Calls to Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community David Commissiong and Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson also went unanswered.
Most of the stranded non-nationals indicated they had entered the country under the Right of Definite Entry, which allows CARICOM nationals an automatic stay of six months.
Meanwhile, AIA President Lewis expressed fear that local and CARICOM sex workers were continuing to offer their “traditional” services despite the personal danger to themselves and their clients.
“Some are not practicing physical distancing because they need to make money and some clients have taken the chance to get their sexual satisfaction in spite of the fact that they can contract the virus,” Lewis told Barbados TODAY.
“As things get more difficult, more and more workers are going to ignore the advice. So, they may pretend to go to the supermarket on their Government-allotted day of the week, but instead go to offer their services,” he added.
Lewis stressed that now is the time for such workers to present a united position to authorities. He also indicated that numerous sex workers from the United Kingdom and the United States have been approaching him for assistance with launching online webcam services and he would be interested in helping local and regional workers with similar endeavours.
“No one was prepared for this crisis and the sex industry is at an even greater disadvantage because we are in the black market. We are already marginalised, so how are we going to ask for help now? We need to come together.” he said.