Seventy Colombian rescue workers are stranded in Haiti because there is no airplane to take them home, and neighboring Dominican Republic won’t let them enter without a visa.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, the volunteers are exhausted and running out of provisions, while waiting for the Colombian government to send an airplane to take them back to their homeland.
“We’re exhausted and have responsibilities to meet in Bogota. We’re not receiving one dollar, and they aren’t working out a way for us to go home,” one of the volunteers told the newspaper.
A number of the volunteers received promises that they would be flown home a week ago, but five times they were let down and told to wait longer.
“We came to help in all good will, and we did, but have they left us practically abandoned to our fate,” Daniel Vela, who had come to Haiti on board a Colombian military aircraft with five doctors and two nurses, all voluntarily.
Police commander James Camelo, blames U.S. authorities – in charge of the Port-Au-Prince airport – for the seemingly endless delay in their return home.
“The armed forces of the United States established priorities for entering and leaving the country according to their own needs. All the other flights, from around the world, were given a specific space so they can land,” the police official said, adding that flights to take the Colombians home were canceled on four occasions in the past week.
A group of 24 Bogota firemen refused to wait any longer and decided to travel to the Dominican Republic to catch a flight home from there, but were refused entry, because they do not have the right visas.
“We have run out of provisions. We’re exhausted. We’ve been here for a long time now and completed our work,” one fireman told the newspaper before – unsucessfully – trying his luck in the Dominican Republic.
Colombia’s ambassador to Santo Domingo, former army general Mario Montoya, is trying to get permission for the Colombians to board an airplane in the Dominican capital. Bogota mayor Samuel Moreno has promised to buy the Santo Domingo – Bogota tickets for the firefighters.