Asylum seekers: Guyana’s first responsibility is to its citizens – Attorney General

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Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on Wednesday reminded of the government’s responsibility to its citizens to ensure that facilities exist to afford them a quality standard of living before those courtesies can be extended to migrants.

The Attorney General made the comments as Guyana continues to work at the diplomatic level with Suriname, Cuba and the United States of America (USA) on finding a solution for the hundreds of Cuban asylum seekers currently camped out at South Drain, Suriname in anticipation to use Guyana as a transhipment point to the USA.

In an invited comment, Nandlall told the News Room Wednesday that Guyana does not have the facilities to handle any influx of unanticipated immigrants at the moment.

“The State doesn’t have the required necessities to deal with an unexpected influx of any grouping of people…Guyana is a poor country with limited resources. We have problems in providing essential goods and services for Guyanese,” he said.

Nandlall said Guyana continues to engage at the bilateral level to assist in finding a humanitarian solution to the plight of the hundreds of Cubans in search of betterment.

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall (Photo: News Room/December 9, 2020)

“We are told that thousands of Cubans plan to assemble here in Guyana during the month of December…to get visas or pass through on their way to Brazil then via the highway of America to Mexico,” he said.

The AG clarified that Guyana has not outrightly rejected accepting the Cubans, but noted that several issues need to be addressed first.

The Attorney General explained that Guyana has to look at its responsibility to the countries it shares its borders with, particularly with Brazil already complaining that persons have been using Guyana’s porous borders to enter Brazil.

Nandlall said that Guyana has learnt that a large percentage of the Cubans in Suriname are there illegally, a matter that will also need to be addressed.

He said that those persons would also have to take their COVID-19 tests in keeping with Guyana’s push to control the spread of the virus here.

But more importantly, he pointed out that the ferry crossing remains closed, prohibiting travel between Guyana and Suriname via the Corentyne River.

“When they come, we don’t know where they will stay. How they will survive in Guyana? That can become a human rights nightmare. Brazil has complained that Guyana is being used as a transhipment point for people going into that country,” he added.

Nandlall said Guyana is also taking into account allegations of people smuggling, trafficking in persons; allegations that he says the government must react to.“The government cannot bend and bow to the statements coming from those who are not in government and are looking to draw attention to themselves,” he added.

Nandlall said Guyana will continue to work with its partners and hope to remedy the situation in the best possible way. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd on Monday met with Cuban Ambassador to Guyana, Narciso Reinaldo Armador Socorro to discuss the issue.

The meeting occurred on the same day that Guyanese authorities announced the postponement of the reopening of the Moleson Creek Crossing to stave off the scores of Cubans camping out at South Drain in Suriname who are desirous of entering Guyana.

The Foreign Ministry in Suriname said it had requested technical assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, and the International Organisation for Migration.

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