Gov’t to end visa-free travel for Haitians, Cubans over human smuggling concerns

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As Guyana continues to deal with the influx of illegal migrants from several regional states, in sometimes suspected human trafficking operations, discussions are ongoing at the highest level of government to impose visa requirements that would target Haitians and Cubans.

This is according to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, who is currently dealing with several recent cases where Haitians, Nigerians and Cubans have been detained after found to have illegally entered Guyana.

“We have to tackle this issue once and for all,” Nandlall said in a programme that was streamed live on his Facebook page on Tuesday night.

He said Guyana would not be doing anything that other Caribbean countries have not done.

“Only three countries now in the Caribbean have visa-free immigration policy in relation to Haitians. All the others had to put in place visa requirements because of same thing. Guyana is moving in that direction,” he added.

Nandlall said Guyanese authorities would have to take a position against the country being used as an international smuggling transshipment point.

“They enter Guyana and they do not remain here. Very few leave through the channels they came. These people are being smuggled; Haitians, Venezuelans and Cubans but mainly Haitians,” he added.

Haitians nationals standing outside South Road, Georgetown hotel. (December 09, 2020)

Despite becoming a full member of the 15-member regional integration grouping in 2002 as well as being a signatory to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in 2006,  Haiti does not qualify for the purpose of free movement and had to obtain a visa to travel within CARICOM member states.

As a consequence, Haitians do not enjoy the automatic six month stay on entry to other CARICOM countries. Guyana, however, had extended the courtesy of allowing the automatic 6-month stay, even though it was not required to do so.

It has long been suspected that there is a huge trafficking in persons and human smuggling ring, including children, taking place in the Region, and Guyana is being used as a transit point in this racket.

Nandlall reminded of the discovery of 10 Haitians in a Region #6 hotel last week who claimed that they were brought to Guyana illegally through Suriname and remained at the hotel for several days after their passports and other documents were taken away.

Nandlall said many of these persons do not stay in Guyana and move on to other places but the Guyana Government does not intend to turn a blind eye to it.

It is suspected that most Haitians leave Guyana via the back-track route

He said the Brazilian Government has already expressed concern about the situation. The Surinamese government has also shared intelligence which suggests that the racket extends to that neighbouring Republic.

The Attorney General reminded that Guyana has already engaged the Cuban Ambassador to Guyana on the suspicion these persons, including children, are being trafficked to various parts of the world.

Nandlall said even with the relevant international agencies being notified, there may be other domestic challenges to its position to impose visa requirements.

That would not only be a resort to the Courts but also claims of racial discrimination from the political opposition.

“For them, it is not about protecting the borders or enforcing Guyana’s laws… it’s about black people, Africans, that’s the only card will play on the table and we have no doubt what I said will attract that same response,” he added.

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