Home Letters Overstaying permits are not a crime-fighting priority
It appears we are not only wasting the resources of our police, our incarceration system and our courts, but we are propagating an unethical, and uneconomic double-standard when we relentlessly prosecute illegal aliens and persons who have overstayed their permit in Guyana.
On the assumption that the police, the prison service and the courts have limited resources, it is vital that as a nation, we set our crime-fighting priorities to address the greater ills in society.
Now, we learn of persons being charged, incarcerated and denied bail for the offence of overstaying their visitor’s permit. These persons are detained in the most appalling circumstances. In one case, a woman’s crime was evidently tantamount to falling in love with a Guyanese and wishing to stay, thus forging a passport entry. Illegal? Yes. A crime-fighting priority? No. An ethical double standard? Certainly!
I know of one case where a European visitor was under the impression that an entry to Caricom countries meant that he could visit all the Caricom countries, as is the case with the European Union Schengen countries. The guy had a PhD!
Then in another case, another European thought he could visit Georgetown, since he was freely allowed to cross from Brazil to Lethem, as many shoppers did without immigration on a daily basis. Maybe our Immigration thought he was Brazilian, but he ended up spending a weekend in the Grove lockups, before the courts on Monday, fined and deported him. This gentleman was on a world tour!
Could we then pause to consider the tens of thousands of Guyanese who reside illegally in our neighbouring countries, and the developed world, with fake IDs, Green Cards, etc?
Or maybe, we could take into context the eleven million illegal aliens in the US and the debate over whether to prosecute them to ultimate deportation. Even the most hard-line politicians have softened their stance to only deporting those who commit felonies (serious crimes). The debate inevitably gravitates towards the economics of pursuing those so called, illegal aliens, their contribution to the GDP of the country and so on.
Could we therefore take a minute to consider the time when Guyanese were pouring into Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, when Guyana’s economy was down?
In Guyana, where we are desperately short of persons, one would imagine that, from an economic point of view, once the person was not a vagrant, we would welcome all who would have the capacity, and would wish to live and work peacefully here. Our biggest strategic issue is that we have too few persons living in Guyana. Our economists would do well to note that we have among the lowest GDP densities in the world. Consequently, we have among the highest cost per capita for infrastructure.
Thus, while illegal entry is quietly overlooked in most developed countries, or dealt with in a more humane manner, we seem to be allocating too much of our scarcer resources to a pursuit that has little economic, cultural or ethical justification.