Visa-free travel for Haitians quashed
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Haitian nationals who wish to enter Guyana will now have to apply, be interviewed, and wait for their visa applications to either be granted or denied (Photo released by CANU)
Haitian nationals who wish to enter Guyana will now have to apply, be interviewed, and wait for their visa applications to either be granted or denied (Photo released by CANU)

— as Guyana moves to address concerns of being transshipment destination for human smuggling

PRESIDENT Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday last signed an Immigration Revocation Order which essentially quashes visa-free travel once enjoyed by Haitians coming to Guyana. The order, which has been officially gazetted, stemmed from concerns that Guyana is being used as a transshipment destination for human smuggling.

Two Thursdays ago the authorities discovered 10 undocumented persons claiming to be Haitian nationals at the Swiss Hotel, Skeldon, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne). Of the five females and five males, only one person spoke English. That person told Guyanese officials that they were brought from Suriname by speedboat, relieved of their documents and personal belongings, and left at the hotel at least four days before they were found.

With President Ali’s order, Guyana will now be joining the majority of other Caribbean countries that have already made the decision to impose visa requirements for not only Haitians, but for Cubans as well. According to the website called VisaIndex, only three Caribbean countries, namely, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Montserrat, have a visa-free immigration policy in relation to the Haitians.

A recent statement issued by the Ministry of Legal Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Guyana explained that “It has long been suspected that there is a huge trafficking in persons and human-smuggling ring, including children, taking place in the Region and Guyana is being used as a transit point in this racket, which includes Cubans, Nigerians and Haitians, among others.”

“This is the latest manifestation of this nefarious racket at work which seems to be operating on a daily basis,” the press statement said, as it referenced the Berbice discovery. Added to that, the Surinamese Government has shared intelligence which suggests that the racket extends to that neighbouring republic.
The Dr Irfaan Ali Government has also engaged the Cuban Ambassador to Guyana on this issue. It is believed that these persons, including children, are being trafficked to various parts of the world, with Guyana being used as a transshipment point. It is unclear as to whether the government will consider similar restrictions for Cubans.

The week prior to the Berbice discovery, police in Guyana arrested a number of Haitians, Nigerians and Cubans in close vicinity to Lethem, Region Nine; many of those persons did not possess Guyana’s entry stamps in their passports.
The government in its statement said that given the discoveries, it felt compelled to inform the relevant international agencies dealing with human trafficking and smuggling of persons, including children. To this end, authorities have committed to engaging the United Nations Human Rights Council, the International Organisation for Migration and INTERPOL to request their urgent intervention and assistance.

As an immediate move to curb the suspected trafficking, President Ali took an immediate decision to review the country’s immigration protocols and impose lawful restrictions such as the visa requirement. Additionally, with the new order in effect, Haitians will no longer benefit from the six-month automatic stay that is being afforded to all other member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The Guyana Chronicle recently reported on immigration data which shows that from 2015 to June 2021, Guyana has seen an unusually large influx of Haitians who have entered Guyana, but failed to leave; at least through legal channels. More specifically, records for the aforementioned period point to the arrival of 42,100 Haitians, with some 38,187 of them unaccounted for. Only 3,913 have been registered to have legally departed the shores of Guyana. In addition to other Caribbean countries, the Brazilian Government has also expressed concerns relating to the questionable migration of Haitian nationals.

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