Border security amid COVID-19 lockdown focus of Guyana-Brazil Frontier Committee meeting

As Guyanese health authorities continue to grapple with curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus here and securing its porous borders, the Guyana/Brazil Frontier Committee on Friday discussed ways to further strengthen security at the closed border to prevent cross-border movement between the two countries, among other issues.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Charlene Phoenix (right) leads the Guyanese delegation and Senior Foreign Service Officer Vernon Robinson

Officials from the two States focused on the impact of the pandemic on regional economic activity, Indigenous communities along the border, illegal crossings, security, joint patrols, support for vulnerable groups and trafficking in persons, among others. Moreover, they discussed measures to coordinate efforts to support the health and safety of the region.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Charlene Phoenix, as leader of Guyana’s delegation to the virtual summit, in her remarks, noted that “Given what we have been seeing with regard to the COVID-19 cases on both sides, we should have a discussion to ensure that we are coordinating our responses to the pandemic as closely as possible.”
In that light, the two States committed to combining efforts for information sharing, especially in local dialects as well as in English, Portuguese and Spanish, to all communities along the border. They also expressed the intent to explore additional measures to keep the communities safe throughout the course of the pandemic.
Furthermore, the delegations shared the challenges they faced in their respective efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the part of Guyana, according to the Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) Regional Health Officer, Dr Naail Uthman, while the region continued to adhere to the measures implemented by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), a major challenge was the effective monitoring of the lengthy border shared by Guyana and Brazil as many of the border communities have illegal crossing points.
“Officially, we have facilitated on Thursdays only the movement of goods and services from Brazil on which we know Guyana depends heavily,” he said. Dr Uthman further explained that a team had been established at the port to sanitise those goods and services.
The respective delegations were led by Ambassador Phoenix and Ambassador of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Her Excellency Maria Duclos Carisio.

Guyana’s delegation also comprised Ambassador to Brazil, His Excellency George Talbot, Consul General to Boa Vista, Shirley Melville, and a number of representatives from the Ministries of Public Health, Communities, and Social Protection and the Department of Citizenship.
The previous meeting of the Guyana/Brazil Frontier Committee was held in Bonfim, State of Roraima, Brazil, on October 30 and 31, 2018.
Guyana was scheduled to host the eighth meeting. However, due to challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, the Government of Guyana recommended the organisation of this extraordinary meeting.
The Guyana/Brazil Frontier Committee was established on September 14, 2009, to address joint action between the border communities.