The 15 Haitian nationals detained in Guyana last month have been released from police custody and granted one-month extensions of their stay.
A reliable source told Stabroek News that after having been detained for three weeks, the Haitians, comprising seven adults and eight children, were released five days ago.
According to the source, they would have arrived here legally since they had visas. “The visas were granted for one month… They came here legally. They have not broken any laws. They had return tickets and hotel reservations,” the source said.
Last month, the police were said to be investigating the circumstances surrounding the migration of the Haitians along with several others who were detained under suspicions that they were victims of human trafficking.
Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum had also related that the force was investigating the “chief players” involved in the matter, including persons who would have organised the group’s transport, accommodation and assisted with translating.
The source explained that the confusion would have started when one of the men was allegedly suspected of having abandoned his two children shortly after arriving in Guyana. “[After that] they took away passports, money and then started deporting left, right and centre. On what grounds were they deporting? That they suspect human trafficking? Why would a woman carry her children if she was being trafficked?” the source questioned.
Earlier this month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge told reporters that his ministry was concerned about whether there was actually any evidence of human trafficking. “What the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been concerned about… is that we need to move expeditiously to decide one way or another whether there is actually evidence [of human trafficking] and to try to ensure that children and women who may be in that group, in particular, are not put in any unacceptable conditions whilst the police try to sort out this matter. That is the situation as of now. The need to be expeditious has been drawn to the attention of the police,” Greenidge had said.
The minister had also stated that the matter was more of a police matter and had nothing to do with citizenship; rather, he said that it was one regarding the social rights of the migrants.
‘Prisoners of the state’
Meanwhile, the source related that the Haitians would have been treated as “prisoners of the state.” “There was no phone in there, they took away everything, money and passports. The only thing they had were the clothes on their backs. They were treated like prisoners of the state. They had armed police watching them … It was a very traumatic experience for them. The women weren’t able to see their children because they were kept in separate places,” the source said.
“This is a blatant violation. There is no ambassador here for these people, no official agency has stepped forward. There is no written policy on refugee migration. They just locked them up and deported them. More than twenty would have been sent back,” the source stated.
Presently, he said that they would have been granted an extension on their visas but some have indicated that they want to go back home. “At this point they have been granted additional one month visas. If they want to reapply they can. If someone says, ‘I want to have them work for me,’ then they can go through the process and apply for a work permit for them. If no one steps forward, then they would most likely not want to stay in Guyana illegally after the traumatic experience they suffered because imagine they are here legally and look at what happened,” the source said.
Meanwhile, three of the Haitian nationals are currently staying at Red Thread, and the organisation is currently appealing for donations in the form of clothing, food stuff and household items.