Chief Justice halts deportation of Haitians

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Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George on Thursday evening granted a conservatory order halting the deportation of 26 Haitians, who remain in custody at a government facility at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice (WCB).

The ten men, nine women and seven children were recently intercepted by police at a city hotel and in a mini-bus on the Linden – Mabura Road. On December 1, Principal Magistrate, Sherdel-Isaacs-Marcus, at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, issued an order for the nationals to be taken to the nearest port of exit on the grounds that the violated Guyana’s immigration laws.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

The News Room understands that when Haitian nationals arrived in Guyana on November 7, they reportedly lied to immigration officers about where they would be staying while in the country; this is a violation of the immigration laws.

The Chief Justice suspended the deportation until the High Court decides on the constitutionality of their detention and planned removal from Guyana.

A Habeas Corpus was filed in the High Court last week by President of the Association of Haitian Nationals in Guyana, Kesnel Toussaint, through attorney Darren Wade, arguing that the nationals are being subject to “inhumane treatment and unsanitary conditions.”

The conservancy order granted by the CJ was opposed by Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, who represented the State. Nandlall argued that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the application.

The AG argued that the Fundamental Rights provisions of Guyana’s constitution, which attorney Wade is trying to invoke onto this case, is flawed since it only applies to citizens of Guyana and other Commonwealth Member States, as well as, other countries listed under the said article.

According to Nandlall, Haiti is not listed since it did not sign onto the free movement aspect of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME).

“These persons are aliens under the constitution,” Nandlall said during the hearing, which was held via Zoom.

The case comes up again on December 18, 2020, at 13:30h.

Toussaint, in his affidavit, claimed that a few hours after the Haitians arriving in Guyana on November 7, they were apprehended by the police. A group was removed from the Bristol and Bristol Hotel, located on South Road, Georgetown, while another group was arrested on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.

The police claimed they were suspected to be victims of a human trafficking ring but the Haitians have denied that.

Toussaint stated that since their detention, three weeks ago, the Haitians have been denied Counsel, although several requests were made.

He contended in the affidavit that the Haitians arrived here legally and were granted an automatic six-month stay in keeping with Guyana’s obligation to the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

But the Government of Guyana is insisting that the Haitians are victims of people smuggling.

“This was people smuggling, a lot of it was people smuggling, you had children there without their parents, you had a breach of our immigration laws where everybody gives the same address and the address doesn’t exist,” President Irfaan Ali said in an interview with the media on the sidelines of an event on Wednesday evening at State House.

When pressed, he said: “We are very clear as to what took place.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn in an earlier interview with the media.

“We are taking action against all of those who are clearly the victims of people smuggling and unfortunately it appears that has only to do with Haitians given the current situation.

“It is clear that the movement is not regular and we’re dealing with the issue.”

The Minister said actions will be taken against anyone who enters Guyana illegally but the Haitians had previously recorded a video in which they claimed that they entered Guyana legally through the Eugene F. Correia International Airport.

They have also shared photos of their passports which were stamped at the airport upon entry.

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