The Guyana Government Friday said the recent arrival of 70 persons from Venezuela who are claiming to be Guyanese and another 182 individuals who are camping out at the border, are yet to prove their citizenship.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge in a statement said the matter was brought to Cabinet at the beginning of 2018 but the case is not straightforward since “the citizenship of the persons concerned has yet to be established.”
“If these persons are Guyanese by birth or descent, it is odd that none of them has been able to prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of immigration authorities since they have been at our borders. Without this proof, they are not entitled to enter Guyana,” the Foreign Minister pointed out.
Greenidge said documents such as birth certificates and proof of emigration to Venezuela on the claimed dates would assist in identifying the nationality of the individuals who are coming from the Spanish-speaking nation.
Some of the persons including women and children are currently occupying tents along the Ekereku River in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni region in Guyana.
They claim that they are descendants of the Peters family from Turungban in Region Seven but over the years have relocated with their grandparents to San Antonio, Venezuela to access better education and healthcare.
The Minister said any person seeking to enter Guyana on the basis of Guyanese nationality has to prove that claim.
“It is the applicants’ responsibility to submit proof of citizenship,” he said.
He noted that without such documents, the country can see cases of foreigners laying claim to the right to enter Guyana and to be provided with other rights.
“It is not based on ethnicity and has to be supported by documentation,” he ascertained.
He said it is also unclear whether the persons hold Venezuelan citizenship or how and when it was acquired.
When News Room spoke with Region Seven Chairman, Gordon Bradford earlier this week, he pointed out that the ways of residents living in communities along the borders with Venezuela are far from what obtains on the coast.
He explained that no documentation is needed to travel between the two countries as there are a number of persons who lived in Guyana but worked and attended school in Venezuela.
News Room also interviewed one of the family members, Ann Rodrigues who said the family chose to return to Guyana to flee the economic crisis in Venezuela, only to find that their inherited lands being used for mining.
As it relates to the ownership of the land, Minister Greenidge said such cases of “conflicting claims to assets” should be resolved by the Courts.
While the traditional ways of the Indigenous people’s claim to lands have been raised, the Minister affirmed that the legislation relating to re-migrants and related groups also apply to Indigenous people.
“They do not give re-migrants special privileges over other Guyanese, whatever their ethnicity.”
“No returnee, therefore, can have an automatic right to land or a gold mine in Guyana,” he said.
The family who spoke to the News Room also claimed that there is a total of 182 other persons from her family who are awaiting a word from the government on whether they will be allowed to settle here before they cross over to Guyana.
But Minister Greenidge said those encamped on the other side of Guyana’s borders “need to make clear the basis of their claim as regards the land they wish to settle. Who actually holds the formal title to such land?
“Why, of all the land that may be available in Guyana, do they require land on which there is currently a gold mining operation?
“Why would the entire village have left such land or economic operation in the first place?
“If their departure was really prompted by a need to educate their children, wouldn’t the income from the mining have helped with that goal?”
Greenidge added that “assuming that the persons did leave Guyana for the purpose claimed and may have become Venezuelans, what are their rights compared with the rights of those persons who were left behind and are unquestionably Guyanese?”
The Government has since ordered an investigation into the claims of the Indigenous persons. Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe is leading the team and has told News Room that the report is almost completed to be submitted to Cabinet.