Minister Winston Felix
Out of 8,600 Haitians, only 13 left Guyana legally – Guyana is being used as stepping stone – Minister Felix
There are little indications of what the situation is…human smuggling, trafficking or something else.Minister with Responsibilities for Citizenship, Winston Felix, was clear this week about what is happening. Guyana is being used as a stepping stone by the Haitians for greener pastures.
He also said that the situation was being blown out of proportion by the Opposition which is targeting Haitians unfairly.
JAN FEB MAR APRIL MAY JUNE JULY
Arrived 952 673 345 1321 2010 1749 1552
Departed 2 3 1 4 1 1 1
“Haitians arriving in Guyana is always blown out of proportion by certain elements in the political Opposition.“In so far as the offence of trafficking in persons is concerned, the APNU/AFC Coalition Government is concerned–that offence is treated with intolerance and anyone found committing it and any suspicion of its occurrence will be investigated with a view to prosecuting those found culpable regardless of their nationality.”
Felix, a former Commissioner of Police, was critical about what he described as the readiness of the Opposition to target Haitians arriving in Guyana.
“…And consequently they seek to mislead the public with broad and generally false allegations that seek to tarnish the good name of the Department of Citizenship. However, they have never been able to unearth one iota of evidence to support their spurious allegations. I suspect that this is another of their acts.”From all indications, the Haitians don’t require visas and would arrive here on return tickets.
The Opposition has been insisting that from all indications it is likely there is human smuggling involved and also levels of collusion involved in registering voters using the Haitians.However, Minister Felix was clear about Government’s position.
“Let me reiterate Government’s firm and settled position on CARICOM nationals arriving In Guyana. Apart from our laws which would restrict entry of anyone to Guyana, all CARICOM nationals arriving in Guyana are granted six months to remain in the country, with the possibility of extension.“I am checking on the veracity of the statement that three busloads of Haitians have arrived in Guyana.”
According to the ministry, his enquiry has suggested that Haitians arrived in this country regularly.“We have found that their intention is to get to relatives in Suriname, Cayenne, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. We have traced legal departures but there is a number we cannot account for, and those we suspect left illegally (backtrack).
“We have not found evidence of trafficking in Haitians.
Venezuelans are the subjects of that offence as the prosecution of current cases suggests.”
With the country moving to its first production of oil after a major find in 2015 offshore Guyana, there has been a growing awareness of what is happening at the country’s borders.In the last two to three years, more than 6,000 Venezuelans have fled hardships in that neighbouring country to Guyana.With regards to the Haitians, the arrivals have been rising sharply since January.Haiti, a French-Creolese speaking country of 10 million, has been facing tough times in recent years after being ravaged by natural disasters.
CARICOM member states have expressed concerns about the humanitarian conditions in that country.On Tuesday, following repeated complaints by citizens, of the suspiciously large number of Haitians entering Guyana, Kaieteur News visited the airport.More than 40 Haitians arrived on that Copa flight. Copa conducts up to six flights to Guyana weekly.Persons who spoke French-Creolese, and who appeared to be Haitians, were approaching the passengers who came off the flights. They were armed with photos of the passengers in their phones. The passengers were then whisked away to minibuses in the parking area. There were children and women included.CJIA’s drivers and others admitted that something was suspicious and said from indications someone “high-up” was facilitating the arrivals.
A number of persons speaking French-creolese- were seen darting about, collecting passengers and taking them to buses waiting at the CJIA parking lot.There were police ranks nearby.The Haitians left the airport after 4pm, in a dark-coloured RZ minibus, BSS 2130 and a ‘Pitbull’, BTT7252.The Haitians were seen on videos entering a Charlotte Street property and a private residence in ‘B’ Field, Sophia.
In recent days, photos surfaced of Haitians arriving by the busloads at a South Road hotel.Authorities had denied anything of that nature and deemed it fake news.
The Opposition had questioned the Coalition Government via the Parliamentary committee stage about the presence of foreign CARICOM nationals.