When nine students boarded a plane to the Commonwealth of Dominica in order to begin medical school, not only were they refused entry in to the island of St. Martin on a routine stop due to unfounded Ebola paranoia, but they were deported, turning what was supposed to be a 22-hour flight into a five-day nightmare, according to Sahara Reporters.
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About two weeks ago, Face2Face Africa reported on a number of Caribbean islands and a handful of South American countries instituting aggressive travel bans against not only Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, where the Ebola virus has unfortunately thrived, but also all African countries in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.
And now, here is a case of just how the Ebola hysteria and the ongoing stigmatization of Africans actually plays out.
Four female and five male students from Nigeria and Ghana were on their way to start school at All Saints Medical School in the aforementioned Dominica, but when they landed in St. Martin’s Princess Julianna International Airport in order to catch their 30-minute connecting flight to their final destination, they were told they could not enter the island due to the Ebola outbreak.
The students — who reportedly had the proper documentation detailing that they had indeed tested negative for the virus and had never come in contact with an infected person — were then immediately sent on a return flight to Nigeria.
But unfortunately, the students’ situation would turn from bad to worse.
The group of students would be forced to travel through Panama, Brazil, and Togo, before finally reaching Nigeria — without any regards to their basic needs and lodging.
“During the period, the teenagers slept in airport lobbies unattended, without any amenities. Neither the parents nor the school were notified of the developments.”
The students were then charged N575,000 each for the price of the seemingly neverending trip.
Of the students’ discriminatory treatment, one shocked parent commented, “They treated them like deportees,” a concerned parent told Sahara Reporters. “If teenagers can be treated like this, then what are the odds for other people?”
And to add insult to injury, a number of officials at Juliana Airport have reportedly gone on record to say that the country actually has no official Ebola travel bans in place, with a security officer reportedly quipping, “There is no ban. Not to my knowledge, not yet.”
After a number of officials reportedly denied to Sahara Reporters that a travel ban ever existed in St. Martin, including the government and the airport’s executive office, only the St. Martin Ministry of Health’s Administrative Assistant Maria Henry insisted, “We have a travel ban.”
Meanwhile, an unnamed source from the Ministry of Tourism said, “There is no ban,” in Dominica.
Livid about the unjust treatment the teens faced, another parent remarked, “I am worried that in a free world such as ours, certain countries, airlines and corporations can take such actions with impunity on law-abiding Nigerian citizens without fear of reprisal or remorse. The emotional, physical and financial impact of this event on all involved should not be left to be suffered by these children and their parents alone.”
While another added, “Imagine the nightmare and despair of the parents as well as the trauma these children have experienced.”
At press time, all of the students remain unenrolled in school despite the medical school’s efforts to get them in to the country.
Not surprisingly, the parents of the students are demanding an apology as well as reimbursement for the return trip.
This incident comes on the heels of Nigeria being given a clean bill of health last week from the World Health Organization, after not having any new cases of Ebola for the last six weeks.
It should also be noted that Ghana has not had any cases of Ebola since the virus erupted in March.