Home Letters Undocumented exit phenomenon points to organised migrant smuggling
During the period when members of the Muslimeen were incarcerated for the insurrection in Trinidad and Tobago, a story was told of seven Haitians being placed in the cells with the Muslim brothers, that same evening, the Haitians started drawing frantically on a wall of the cell, they were drawing a picture of a large sailing ship “we are leaving tonight, do any of you wish to come with us?” they asked. One man laughingly said, “yes, anything to get out of here”. The next morning, the Haitians were gone, the picture of the ship along with them, and the one man who said he would accompany them…found dead on the floor, no cause of his death ever determined. Guyana’s Haitian visitors are also vanishing without a trace, and have become a cause for national concern.
In September 2015, after it was revealed that the (then) new APNU/AFC Administration had introduced a policy that Haitians must show cash and return tickets before they could enter Guyana, I wrote that “What pains me, however, is to see Guyana join that line of oppressors; we should be embracing our Caribbean brethren, treating them with respect and dignity, and dare I say it, some preference. Instead, I see a denigration of a proud people by hollow men, new to power, devoid of consciousness, the nouveau riche of the Caribbean; how soon we forget” – (SN 29.9.2015). It would seem that on that occasion my plea did not fall on deaf ears and our Haitian brethren have been accorded more humane treatment since.
We are, however, now faced with mounting evidence that Guyana has become a transit point for Haitian people; this migration in itself is not problematic or cause for worry, what is, however, is the lack of documented exit from Guyana. This undocumented exit phenomenon points to organised migrant smuggling.
Migrant smuggling is “a crime involving the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a State of which that person is not a national or resident”. Migrant smuggling affects almost every country in the world. It undermines the integrity of countries and communities, and costs thousands of people their lives every year. UNODC, as the guardian the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and the protocols thereto, assists states in their efforts to implement the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Migrants Protocol)”.Guyana is a signatory to this protocol.
Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix is unconcerned and stated that Guyana is being used as a stepping stone by the Haitians for greener pastures. Of the 8600 Haitian arrivals in 2019, 13 have left Guyana legally. The Minister also said “We have found that their intention is to get to relatives in Suriname, Cayenne, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. We have traced legal departures but there is a number we cannot account for, and those we suspect left illegally (backtrack)”. Guyana will probably be placed on some sort of blacklist and sanctions will be applied unless the attitudes in Government change quickly.
There is no doubt that the Haitians are willing participants in the smuggling, however, the Government must investigate why exits are not being documented; if any abuse of persons is occurring during their stay in Guyana; if false documents of any kind are being produced and issued to these persons during their time in Guyana. Protection of our Haitian brethren during their time on our shores is a duty that should not be taken lightly.