Human smuggling suspected in Haitians travel probe

Several weeks after arriving in Guyana, some eight adults and six children were sent back to Haiti last week after their return tickets were paid.

This is according to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Winston Felix, who told the media on Monday that efforts were being made to return eight others. He, however, noted that the matter was suspected to be human smuggling.

Felix said the Haitians left behind did not have enough money or no money in some cases to pay their passage, which, according to him, “says something about how they came”.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Winston Felix

Nevertheless, the Minister said efforts were being made to determine how best the authorities could get them home and help to maintain them while they were here.

“But, as soon as we could get them out, that would be good,” Felix added.

The Minister declined to give further details about the probe, but the Police acted on the outcome of the investigation and upon the advice of the Guyana Police Force’s legal advisor.

“I don’t want to be discussing in public, the ins and outs of the investigations. We were advised based on the investigation and that is what we have done,” he told reporters.

Commenting further, Felix disclosed that not only were discrepancies found with the Haitians, but “a collection of circumstances” were found which led to a decision to send them back.

He did not rule out trafficking, saying that “it might be lurking in the horizon”. Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud disclosed that the ongoing probe has found that some of the Haitians were entering Guyana to travel to other destinations.

He disclosed that the investigation found that they were doing this for organised reasons.

Seelall says all of the suspected human smugglers were on bail pending further investigations and the matter was being addressed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

The Haitian adults and children were taken into protective custody at the end of May, in an effort to translate and authenticate their travel documents.

An investigation was subsequently launched and a decision was later taken to send them home.

Officials in neighbouring Suriname have claimed that many Haitians have been travelling there by plane on their way to French Guiana, but they could not convince immigration authorities of their onward journey.

Back in September 2016, at least 12 Haitian men were caught in Linden heading to neighbouring Brazil.