SIMCOE — As many as 400 migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago were stranded on Western Ontario farms after harvest ended last year. Nearly 100 workers from the Caribbean country were stuck at Schuyler Farms Limited, a fruit and crop farm at Simcoe. Some Jamaican workers were stuck for a time but have all since made it home.
Surprisingly, about 70 Trinidad workers are still on the Simcoe farm, said owner Brett Schuyler. As of mid-January, another 20 were holed up in hotel rooms hoping for flights. Since the farm has winter-ready bunkhouses it hosted workers from other farms as well. The workers staying on the farm plan to spend the winter since getting back to Canada for the growing season might be impossible if they leave. Many came to Canada to work because unemployment is high back home.
Trinidad closed its borders in March and implemented strict restrictions on flights.
The Canadian government has allowed foreign workers to extend their visas so they can continue to receive benefits and work while they’re here. As well, the province has created a fund to help cover expenses for farmers putting up their workers unexpectedly. The Trinidad government said in December it would dedicate flights to repatriating migrant workers but many are still waiting.
Workers were warned before they left that it might be difficult to get home, said Schuyler. But he pointed out that every other country has managed to get their people home. One worker from Manitree Fruit Farm at Blenheim told the Trinidad Daily Express: “We came up here to make a living for our families. Now our children are back home awaiting their father to come home for Christmas. What do we tell them? What do we do?”