Government asserted that while data is collected from immigrants crossing Guyana’s borders, Guyana is not a state that would follow immigrants around in a effort to keep track of them.
This was outlined by Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge at a press conference on Monday, who posited that “It isn’t normal in Guyana, once the person enters the country for you to be following them around to see where they are, we are not that type of state, however the immigration authority can ask you report to them from time to time, that as far as I am aware is the only requirement.”
Moreover, he said that “they can try and keep tabs on the basis of the addresses you give them, they would not normally be chasing these people… The stories that you would’ve read about thousands of immigrants, whether they are venezuleans or Cubans, I don’t share that knowledge…we are not aware of people in the thousands and if they are any such collections of persons they would not have been organised by us and we would happily investigate them if they were a serious suggestion.”
He was referring to the recent meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was held in the Parliament Chambers on June 13, where it outlined that there has been a large influx of Haitian nationals and Cubans entering Guyana, with very few of them leaving.
Greenidge and Citizenship Minister Winston Felix were part of that meeting where statistics provided to the House showed that from 2015 to April 30, 2018, a total of 6245 Haitians arrived in Guyana, but only 963 were recorded to have left. This means, on paper, that there are 5282 Haitians still in Guyana.
It was further noted that some 7255 Cubans and 3224 Haitians overstayed their time in Guyana in 2017. Of the 12,585 illegal aliens recorded as domiciled in Guyana in 2017, 83 per cent of them, or 10,479, are Cubans and Haitians.
Moreover, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, in a letter, accused the incumbent Administration of State sponsored human trafficking, pointing out, among others things, that Haitians are being trafficked through Guyana and in return for their “safe passage” they are required and are facilitated in obtaining Guyanese identity documents such as birth certificates, national identity cards, with Guyanese names, which are then left in Guyana, after they depart.
Teixeira even called for the international bodies, such as the United Nations (UN) as well as the diplomatic community to pay closer attention to this development.
The Opposition had long accused the APNU/AFC Government of being engaged in some form of human trafficking, with Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo outlining the scenario that if 10,000 false birth certificates were issued, there is a possibility of it being used in the registration process especially during elections to change the outcome.
However, the Foreign Affairs Minister at his press conference on Monday posited that “we have had challenges domestically regarding Haitians, Cubans as well as Venezuelans and we saw that immediately there were concerns elsewhere about the need to avoid criminalizing these persons for what might be regarded as simple immigration infractions and so that was a major consideration, bearing in mind, for example, that since 1809 any Caribbean person landing on the shores of Haiti would be granted the right to stay in Haiti.”
He also explained that there is a policy guideline, vetted by cabinet, currently in place to establish how immigrants are to be treated.
“Essentially some common guidelines were put together, bearing in mind…that you don’t want to be providing arrangements that allow undesirables, undesirables from the point of view of criminals, for example, terrorist and others into the territory.”
Outlining the free movement of the Caribbean Community (CariCom) members countries that is enshrined in the Treaty of Chaguaramas, Greenidge posited that “Caribbean citizens are entitled to entry in the first instance without undue barriers to stay for a period of six months and then after that the immigration authorities may decide whether to extend it…so what we have done is to try to ensure that those who seek entry, of course have to establish where they are coming from and that they don’t fall into a category that is problematic and they are required to enter Guyana by its lawful entry points. If you use some point other than a lawful port of entry they authorities will have something to say about it.”