Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix on Monday condemned reports about the arrival and departure of Haitians travellers to Guyana.
The Minister in a statement from the Ministry of Presidency admitted that Haitians are among the higher number of persons arriving in Guyana but noted that the numbers published by the Kaieteur News and the Guyana Times are inaccurate.
“No one would deny that Haitians are one of the higher numbers arriving in Guyana from around the Caribbean, but the records produced by the [the two media entities] are grossly incorrect and cannot be trusted to guide the public as to what is really taking place,” Minster Felix said.
The articles in the media stated that 8,602 Haitians arrived in Guyana between January 2019 and July 2019 and only 13 departed.
However, Minister Felix said during the same period, 8,476 Haitians arrived in Guyana and 1,170 departed the country.
“Forty-eight were refused leave on landing,” he said.
The articles alleged that Haitians are victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and that there are levels of collusion to have the Haitians registered to vote at the upcoming General and Regional Elections (GRE).
“These are xenophobic,” the Minister said noting that several other nationalities have travelled to Guyana but were not attacked by the media.
“We have 8,476 Haitians arriving in Guyana but for example, we have 11,119 Trinidadians also arriving for the same period and no one is making a noise about that but everyone is making noise about the Haitians who simply use Guyana as a point of transit to get to their diaspora in Colombia, Cayenne or Panama,” the Minister said.
The Minister, according to the statement, said it is clear that there is a sinister agenda afoot, aimed at using the arrival of Haitians in Guyana for political mileage through falsified information to deceive and sow seeds of discord among Guyanese.
Records from the Department of Citizenship he said, show that in 2013, 188 Haitians arrived in Guyana with 99 departures; in 2014, 227 arrivals and 113 departures; in 2015, 770 arrivals with 136 departures; in 2016, 722 arrivals with 451 departures; in 2018, 3, 515 arrivals with 291 departures and in 2018, 1,238 arrivals with 85 departures.
According to the Ministry, there was a legislative adjustment to Schedule II of the Immigration Act, Cap. 14:02, to include Haiti as a beneficiary to the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME) in 2019. As a result, this facilitates free movement within the Region and automatic entry and stay of six months in the CARICOM countries.
Since then, Haitians no longer need a visa to travel to Guyana and are afforded the same treatment and welcome that other CARICOM nationals have enjoyed, the Ministry said.
“Haitians are treated like any other CARICOM national. The benefits of the CSME are available for every CARICOM national and that includes Haitians. A Haitian arriving in Guyana, just like any other Caribbean country is entitled to be landed for six months and is processed the same way; on a case by case basis,” he said.
Further to this, Minister Felix said, Haitians have capitalised on free movement within the Region to travel to Guyana and other states.
“I know in some instances; the Haitians have walked over mountains to the Dominican Republic to catch flights to Central and South America using whatever airlines are available. This, along with the relaxation of the visa requirement, has allowed for freer movement of Haitians around the Region,” he said.
Prior to the amendment, the Ministry said the Act had facilitated the six months 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.
From January 2019 to July 30, 2019, there were 45, 944 arrivals of Americans; 2,980 arrivals of Barbadians; 5,048 arrivals of Brazilians; 2,548 of British nationals; 12,259 arrivals of Canadians; 1,995 arrivals of Chinese; 41, 272 arrivals of Cubans; 679 arrivals of Indians; 2,900 arrival of Surinamese and 11,119 arrival of Trinidadians.
As it relates to allegations of the Haitians being smuggled or trafficked, Minister Felix said the Guyana Police Force has made checks and to date, has found no evidence to support such claims.
As a matter of fact, he said, the Force, since 2014 has not found a single case of Haitians being victims of either of the alleged crimes.
“In effect, the Department has been working with the Police on each report of trafficking in persons and this has been so since 2015. For 2019, the Police encountered 18 cases of TIP, 13 persons were charged and 7 cases were brought before the Courts. The Police, who have been working on TIP since 2014 has never encountered a Haitian who is victim of TIP and similarly, they have not charged any Haitian with relation to TIP and that is instructive as to the nature of the Haitians presence in Guyana. They are not victims of trafficking nor have we encountered them smuggled into any territory or Guyana,” the Minister noted.
Minister Felix strongly encourages members of the public who have knowledge of either crime being committed, to report it to the police.