Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix has refuted the allegations made by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, who was quoted in the August 1, 2017 edition of the Guyana Times as accusing the Government of engaging in “people smuggling”.
A release yesterday from the Ministry of the Presidency said that the Minister also clarified that neither Haitians nor any other groups are being allowed into the country illegally.
“There is no smuggling of people. We have not found any evidence of people smuggling… We do not have any people smuggling ring,” he said.
Felix said that a number of foreign nationals come to Guyana on a daily basis, including, but not limited to, Chinese, Cubans, Brazilians and Haitians. With regard to the Haitians, he said that a few months ago, two groups of Haitians came into the country; one group came in with all the requisite documentation and went about their business and there have been no reports of smuggling since. However, the second group appeared to have provided two different sets of information to the police and the immigration officers at Timehri with regard to their intended place of residence while in the country.
“The police stopped them on their way to Georgetown and queried their presence in Guyana… What the police did discover is that a number of people, who came on that trip stated one address on the disembarkation card and by the time they were on their way to the City, they gave a different address to the police,” Felix explained.
He said, however, that this is not unusual since very often people would have last-minute changes to their plans and as such, having ascertained that all of their other documentation was in order, they were allowed to proceed. Additionally, there were a few issues regarding the documentation for some Haitian children because they were written in French. However, this was rectified after they were translated into English.
The Opposition Leader, who was speaking at a political rally last Sunday, also said that the country is being used as an in-transit hub for Haitians to travel to French Guiana illegally. This too, was denied by Felix, who explained that Haitians have been travelling to Guyana to Suriname and then to French Guiana for decades. “This has been happening as far back at 1981-1982. Nothing is strange about this. Even when the Opposition Leader was President, Haitians were passing through here because it is the normal route for them to travel,” he said.
Responding to Jagdeo’s claims about the issuance of false birth certificates, Felix said that the Department of Citizenship is in the business of issuing legitimate documents based solely on records of birth at the General Register Office. Moreover, the birth certificate features have been improved with intention of guarding against forgery.