By Kurt Campbell
Over the last six years, a total of 42, 100 Haitian nationals are recorded to have arrived in Guyana, according to figures confirmed by the News Room, but of that number, only 3,913 persons are recorded to have departed.
This means that a total of 38,187 Haitians are unaccounted for but local authorities do not believe they are here. The figures have given rise to the suspicion that the Haitians are a part of a human trafficking and human smuggling ring of international proportions using Guyana as a transhipment point to get to other countries.
A look at the figures for the first five months of 2021 shows that while 1, 378 Haitians arrived in the country, only 165 departed, leaving 1,213 unaccounted for.
During 2020, the country recorded the highest influx of Haitians, amounting to 9, 239. But again, the figures confirm the grim reality where only 717 departed Guyana through legal means, leaving 8,522 unaccounted for.
The trend was the same in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 showing the arrival of thousands of Haitians with a few hundred leaving.
In February 2021, the Brazilian Federal Police arrested 26 Haitians who entered Bom Fim illegally from Guyana through Lethem. Also, two weeks ago, local police arrested a number of Haitians in close vicinity to Lethem, Region 9.
Several others found subsequently at a hotel in Region Six claimed they were left there by person (s) who they claimed brought them into Guyana through Suriname and took away their passports and other documents.
This has given rise to renewed discussions at the highest level of government to impose visa requirements that would target Haitians and Cubans.
According to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, the government intends to tackle the issue.
“Only three countries now in the Caribbean have a 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 said.
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.
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.
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.