Alerted ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in E Division (Linden-Kwakwani) have arrested 26 Haitians who reportedly entered Guyana illegally.
According to reports, at about 21:30h on Sunday, ranks intercepted two minibuses at Mabura Trail, Region 10, with the foreign nationals.
Based on reports received, the Haitians were detained after it was discovered that they had entered the country illegally via Suriname. Police also related that they were en route to neighbouring Brazil at the time of interception.
Following their arrest, the foreign nationals were taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where they are being interrogated and face possible prosecution and deportation.
Back in 2019, former Citizenship Minister, Winston Felix had revealed that between January to July 2019, some 7000 Haitian nationals were accounted for. While the issue of foreign nationals overstaying their time in the country is not a new one, the numbers have significantly increased since 2015.
In 2013, 188 Haitians arrived in Guyana with 99 departures; and in 2014, 227 arrived, and 113 departed.
But in 2015, there were 770 arrivals and only 136 departures; in 2016, 722 arrivals with 451 departures; in 2017, 3515 arrivals and 291 departures; and in 2018, 1237 arrivals with only 85 departures.
While the former Government has long contended that the immigrants may be leaving Guyana illegally for Brazil and Suriname and for French Guiana, there was no concrete move by them to monitor the situation or attempt to put a stop to the illegal movement of people.
These numbers of unaccounted Haitians had raised major concerns, especially for the then parliamentary Opposition, the People Progressive Party/Civic – which had alleged that there might be a people-smuggling racket.
Felix had also stated that those unaccounted Haitians might be leaving through the “backtrack” (unauthorised ports) to go to other counties.
Furthermore, he had explained that the legislative adjustment to Schedule II of the Immigration Act, Cap 14:02, might be another reason for the influx of Haitians into Guyana.
The Act was amended to include Haiti as beneficiaries to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which facilitates free movement within the region and automatic entry and stay of six months in Caricom countries.
Prior to the amendment, the Act had facilitated the six-month automatic stay to other Caricom member states including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Montserrat, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad, and Tobago, with the exception of Haiti, whose nationals had required a visa and were only allowed to stay for up to 90 days or three months.
Since then, Haitians no longer need a visa to travel to Guyana and are afforded the same treatment and welcome that other Caricom nationals enjoy.