In July last year, Barbados' Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong, said his Government had been forced to reconsider its decision to allow the free movement of Haitian nationals to Barbados without visa because of the “large influx of persons” of Haitian nationality coming from Panama and Chile who were not entitled to work here.
He said that this was compounded because “no one in Haiti had really explained to them the principles of this free movement programme, and the vast majority of them were coming with this mistaken idea that they could simply come to Barbados to work and live, with many of them becoming stranded in Barbados.
Guyana’s Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn told the media on Monday that “we will have to institute a system of visas being issued before any of those persons coming to Guyana, to make sure that those who are coming to Guyana are coming for legitimate purposes relating to proper business in Guyana or settlement in Guyana and/or return to their country having conducted business in Guyana.
“But we cannot continue a system where [persons] passing through the country and disappear.”
Benn was at the time responding to questions about the 26 Haitian nationals who were taken into custody following suspicions of a human smuggling and trafficking in person racket earlier this month. The ten men, nine women and seven children were found at a city hotel and in a mini-bus on the Linden – Mabura Road.
After two weeks in custody, On Friday Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs granted an order for the deportation of the 26 Haitians who were detained at the pleasure of the Irfaan Ali administration after they were legally landed and issued an automatic six-month stay as CARICOM Nationals.
Attorney Darren Wade who is representing the interest of the Haitians said the move is unlawful and a direct violation of the rights of the Haitians. He says he intends to fight the deportation order in the High Court as it was wrongfully granted.
The Haitians last week shared a video in which they claimed that they are not being provided with adequate food and water. They also provided several documents, including passports to show that they entered Guyana legally through the Eugene F. Correia International Airport (EFCIA) and therefore should not be treated different from other tourists.
Guyana in 2019 adjusted Schedule II of the Immigration Act, Cap. 14:02, to include Haiti as a beneficiary to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which facilitates free movement within the region and the automatic entry and stay of six months in CARICOM countries.
If the decision is taken to seek permission from CARICOM reverse this provision, Guyana will also follow in the footsteps of Dominica which also has re-introduced visa requirements for Haitian nationals entering that country.
Dominica’s Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security, in a statement said the restrictions do not apply to Haitian nationals who are holders of a diplomatic or official passport or who are business persons who are holders of the following visas: US, UK, Canadian or Schengen visas.
The ministry advised that people who intend to sponsor Haitian nationals “should be aware of the seriousness and obligations of this responsibility and should ensure that they educate themselves on the relevant laws and procedures involved.”
Guyana’s Home affairs Minister Benn pointed out that while the Haitians were entering Guyana legally he claimed that after arriving in the country, there is no trace of them.
He alleged that over the last three years, 33,000 Haitians “who arrive are missing.”
“We know that they are not in Guyana, we there are many reports of them going over the Corentyne, perhaps to French Guiana, we know that many of them are said to be going to Brazil, we understand and we believe that there is a strong element of human trafficking and people smuggling related going on,” the Home Affairs Minister told the media.
He noted that a charter flight, which had Haitian passengers on board, was not granted permission to land in Guyana recently.
Since then, Benn said, “it appears that there have been attempts to come through Barbados on smaller planes and Caribbean Airlines to come to Guyana and to continue what we view as Trafficking in People.”
In August 2019, Former Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix confirmed that while close to 8,500 Haitians arrived in the country for the first seven months of the year, only 1,170 are known to have departed the country. The rest, Felix said, are not in Guyana.
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