Guyanese caught after illegally crossing into Brazil seeking employment

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By Isanella Patoir

Ten Guyanese nationals were recently caught in Brazil after they illegally entered there from Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) seeking employment.

All borders in Guyana have been closed since April 3 and will remain closed until June 3 as part of measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Regional Chairman Bryan Allicock told the News Room during a telephone interview that three of them are from West Coast Berbice and three are residents of Lethem; they were reportedly seeking employment in the neighbouring country.

“They are all workers that got caught over there and they have to go through the 14 days quarantine…we have four coming in from the mid-east who came through Brazil,” the Regional Chairman said.

The Chairman said he is very concerned about the situation given the fact that Brazil’s President Jair Balsonaro is downplaying the impacts of COVID-19.

Regional Chairman Bryan Allicock

Brazil has surpassed 100,000 cases of COVID-19, according to the latest figures released by the Health Ministry Sunday.

He explained that persons are driving and riding across with some even bold enough to walk over the Takutu Bridge which links Guyana to Brazil early in the morning and returning late at night.

The Regional Chairman said these persons are finding employment in stores, doing domestic work and labour on farms in Brazil.

He explained that with the dry season in the region, the river is almost dried up making it easier for persons to cross.

The Regional Chairman said it is also difficult to catch these persons with over 1,000 miles of border between Guyana and Brazil. Additionally, these persons have contacts that are letting them know when the ‘coast is clear’ to cross.

A section of Lethem in Region Nine [Photo: News Room]
“They have a network where when we send patrol out they know exactly when the patrol will be there so they hold on until its clear so it’s a headache trying to prevent people from going across even though we are educating them on a daily basis on the seriousness of keeping out the COVID-19 from entering into the region,” the Regional Chairman said.

He said it is difficult to determine how many persons are crossing the border to go over to Brazil and whether they are all Guyanese.

“You cannot decipher if it’s Guyanese or Venezuelans because they are not being caught, they have their network,” the Regional Chairman noted.

Allicock highlighted that some who are caught are being fined $19,000.

“…the Toshaos are also trying their best; they have penalties for those that get caught and are being fined at least $19,000.”

The authorities in the region will be stepping up patrols in an effort to curb the illegal crossing and the regional authorities will be engaging the private sector for assistance to help the most vulnerable during this time.

“We are trying our best to prevent any outbreak of COVID-19 in this region.”

The Regional Chairman explained that the closure of non-essential businesses in Guyana has resulted in many persons losing their jobs in Lethem.

“The Chinese stores are closed, some Guyanese stores are closed and those people who were employed by these institutions, no longer have work and some of them are single mothers and they have to find food to feed their children,” the Regional Chairman said.

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