Opposition Leader raps Education Minister for ‘racialising allegations of human trafficking’

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Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has called out Education Minister Nicolette Henry over the recent pronouncements she made during Parliament, when her Administration was faced with allegations of human trafficking over the large influx of Haitian and Cuban immigrants who are registered as entering Guyana, but not leaving.

During the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was held in the Parliament Chambers on Wednesday, June 13 and saw the attendance of Citizenship Minister Winston Felix and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, Henry sought to question why focus was not placed likewise on citizens of Bangladesh.

“Why emphasis was being placed on the number of Haitians not departing Guyana, since if an analysis of the figures from a percentage perspective was conducted, then it would show a 30 per cent non-departure rate for persons from Bangladesh. Why not the Bangladeshis?” she questioned.

Jagdeo however, criticized the Minister who he claimed was more interested in making the issue about race, instead of trying to find a solution.

Education Minister Nicolette Henry

The latest statistics provided to Parliament showed that the problem lay with those coming from the French Caribbean island nation and not necessarily Bangladesh.

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 that there are 5282 Haitians still in Guyana. In the case of persons coming to Guyana from Bangladesh, the numbers were less alarming.

It was also reported that from 2015 to April 30, 2018, a total of 247 Bangladeshis arrived in Guyana and 147 were recorded to have left. This means that there are 104 Bangladeshis still in Guyana. However, it was explained that a majority of the remaining 104 have valid work permits.

Jagdeo said “Henry showed no comprehension skills whatsoever. This is about trafficking. She made it about race. We don’t have problem with people coming here, working here, so long as they follow the laws. It is about the reports that people are paying thousands … and are trafficked through Guyana.”

The Minister’s comments were also criticised by independent statisticians and financial experts who claimed that it was extremely disturbing that the Minister “showed her lack of elementary and basic training in primary school statistics, which advises on the concept of absolute change versus relative change.”

These experts have said if one were to use Henry’s logic that 30 per cent of the Bangladeshis did not leave Guyana in 2017, then she must be professional enough to tell the full truth around this 30 per cent because it translates to 11 Bangladeshis.

“If one compares those 11 Bangladeshis who made themselves into illegal aliens in Guyana in 2017 to the other nationalities the picture is very different from the image Henry is trying to paint,” one expert said.

It was further noted that some 7255 Cubans and 3224 Haitians overstayed their time in Guyana in 2017 compared to those 11 Bangladeshis. 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.

“But Henry chose to sensationalise the status of 11 Bangladeshis instead of looking properly at the facts” the expert posited.

The Opposition has long accused the incumbent Administration of being engaged in ‘state sponsored human trafficking’.

In early June, it was revealed that several Haitians, both adults and children, were sent back to Haiti after it was suspected by the Police that they were reportedly part of a human smuggling ring. The Police had disclosed that the probe had found that some of the Haitians were entering Guyana to travel to other destinations, and that they were doing this for organised reasons.

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