Only 13 Haitians given Guyanese citizenship since 2015 – Felix

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Only 13 Haitians have received Guyanese citizenship since 2015, Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix said Wednesday afternoon as he was once more forced to deny claims that the Government was handing out citizenship in exchange for promises of vote for the Coalition at impending general elections.

“The APNU+AFC Government stands firm on its decision to have a credible list as the basis on which general and regional elections in Guyana would be conducted.

“I would not get involved in any disdainful act…to secure votes for the APNU+AFC Coalition in exchange for citizenship for any foreign national residing in this country,” Felix stated at a press conference at his Shiv Chanderpaul, Georgetown office.

He said that in 2015, a total of 141 persons from 35 different nationalities, including a single Haitian, were given citizenship.

The following year, 192 persons were given citizenship; the successful applicants were from 34 countries, including one from Haiti.

In 2017, nationals from 40 countries were given citizenship; the amount totalled 230 and included seven Haitians. Last year, 252 persons from 42 different countries were given citizenship; seven were from Haiti.

For this year, so far 108 persons from 30 countries have received citizenship, including two Haitians.

A month ago, Minister Felix confirmed that while close to 8, 500 Haitians arrived in the country for the first seven months of the year, only 1,170 are known to have departed the country. The rest, Felix said, are not in Guyana.

“No, they are not staying here; and we know that they are leaving,” he said.

Felix said that many are leaving the borders illegally, either to the east (Suriname) or to the south (Brazil.)

He said that if one were to really examine what is happening on the Corentyne, “you will suddenly discover that there no way you could put your hand on anybody leaving backtrack, because of the number of backtrack routes you have.”

He said that even before the time of mobile phones, those leading the backtrack operations would know when the authorities are trying to nab them, and would “wait them out” at sea.

“If you go to the Rupununi, that is worse yet, because it’s over 1, 000 miles of border between Guyana and Brazil,”

However, Felix said efforts are underway to address the situation.

“What is being done now, is to check the really  vulnerable areas where anybody might be leaving – because it’s not just the Haitians – there are others –  and to see how well we can manage it to create a deterrent against using Guyana as a point from which you can just  jump out and leave as you like without reporting to the immigration officer,” Felix stated.

Felix confirmed that he did meet with a group of Haitians and African nationals on August 29 last at the Critchlow Labour College. He said the meeting was arranged by Aubrey Heath-Retmeyer, whom he has known since the 1980’s.

According to Felix, Heath-Retmeyer had contacted him to say that the foreigners were having difficulty with their immigration issues, and he (Felix) agreed to attend the meeting.

Felix said that at the start of the meeting, he counted 19 persons; others trickled in later.

Following the meeting, it was agreed that those with concerns would then visit the Ministry of Citizenship to have the matters investigated further.

The issues, he said ranged from employment visa and the lengthy time it was taking to process their applications, extension of stay and delays in acquiring citizenship through marriage.

Felix said at no time did he process citizenship to anyone in exchange for votes.

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