In an effort to clamp down on fraudulent migration, the European Union (EU) will be collaborating with the Citizenship Ministry to set up an electronic visa system for travellers entering Guyana.
Citizenship Ministry, Winston Felix, received the policy recommendations and guidelines for establishing an Electronic Visa (E-Visa) and work visa system. This is expected to aid in the implementation and development of a modernised visa issuance system.
It comes almost two years after seeking assistance for policy guidelines on its establishment. Minister Felix explained that Guyana’s visa application process saw immigration officers using a rubber stamp.
This process, he noted, was the same since independence. He pointed to cases being reported by immigration officers of foreigners presenting their passports with bogus Guyana stamps.
“How long must we contend with a situation in which our immigration system is easily defrauded? And once we recognise fraud in a legitimate system it is our duty to ensure that we protect it.”
“I am happy to receive it because it would be the source for correcting many issues associated with our visa system currently in operation. The world is changing, but the migration policy in Guyana has not changed.”
“We have had our immigration laws and visa facilities available since we became independent, with very little change to it. But in this changing world, which sees human trafficking, transnational crime, irregular migration patterns, we in Guyana are now seeking to harden the soft parts of our immigration system.”
EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videtič, personally handed over the report to Citizen Minister Felix. He noted the European Union’s commitment to improving the visa system which is slated to reduce fraudulent practices in the migration process.
“Guyana’s economy will benefit from a system which makes tourism more attractive and provides more transparency for foreign investment and a genuine need for foreign labour. Safety and security will be enhanced through a well-managed, easily traceable system, which prevents the unregulated inflow of non-citizens. It will also bring social, educational and cultural benefits and meet humanitarian objectives,” Videtič said.
The report was compiled by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The work on it began after a request from Guyana to the African, Caribbean-European Union (ACP-EU) Migration Action Programme in June 2015 for technical assistance, in order to improve the local visa processing and issuance system, as well as immigration services.
Meanwhile, IOM’s Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean, Robert Natiello reiterated the organisation’s commitment to regular and orderly migration and the need to coalesce efforts to improve the process for migrants.
“The process of emitting visas is an important part of ensuring the regular and orderly migration process. When we have irregular migration processes, we have seen that this opens up migrants to many vulnerable situations and they can fall into situations of human rights violations, Trafficking In Persons and smuggling of migrants. So we are pleased to be able to provide technical assistance for this type of work,” Natiello said.
Also present at the event were Minister within the Public Health Ministry, Karen Cummings and Business Minister Dominic Gaskin.