The “alarming” statistics on the number of Cubans and Haitians overstaying their time in Guyana but who cannot be accounted for caused the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs to yesterday summon Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge to discuss possible human trafficking.
“When you have a large number of people that cannot be found then something is definitely wrong…we have to find out what is really going on,” Chairman of the Committee, PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira said during discussions of the findings.
“It’s not a question of who is trickling in. The issue is not who is coming and going; it’s the issue of the numbers remaining and where you can’t find them, you can’t see them…This is trafficking, this is trafficking,” she added.
She informed that at a sitting of the committee in February of this year questions were raised on the number of Haitians coming into the country but not leaving and a request for statistics on the entry numbers was made of Felix.
On May 23rd Felix wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly and provided statistics of not only Haitians but of the eight main groups of foreign nationals with the largest arrival and departure figures for the past five years and the first quarter of this year.
A breakdown of the information provided is shown in the table below as related by the Chairman yesterday with the nationalities and numbers for arrivals and departures of the respective years.
Teixeira zoomed in on the number of Haitians and Cubans who arrived in this country between last year and April 30th of this year and said that although they spoke a foreign language they seem to have been “lost” away. “Both groups are distinctive in terms of language and yet they seem to be lost away,” she said.
While 22,520 Cubans were reported as arriving up to April 30 of this year, only 16,350 were recorded as departing. Of the 1, 238 Haitians recorded as arriving up to April 30 this year, only 85 have been recorded as leaving.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Committee Member, Zulficar Mustapha pointed out that there is no data or information on where in Guyana the Haitians were living or if any of the numbers remaining here have been naturalized and are registered by the Guyana Elections Commission, thus giving them power to vote at elections.
Another PPP/C Committee Member, Nigel Dharamlall posed myriad questions pertaining to provisions for both Venezuelan nationals and Guyanese emigrating from Venezuela alone or with families.
He wanted to know what provisions have been made to assist Guyanese returning home, since many of them would have fled the conflict torn Venezuela with “just the clothes on their backs”.
Teixeira said she was also concerned whether the foreign-born children were being enrolled in schools and being vaccinated. Dharamlall said the Minister of Citizenship needs to come prepared to tell the Committee how many of the foreign nationals have come as tourists, settlers and traders.
Teixeira proposed to the committee that the Ministers of Citizenship and Foreign Affairs be called to answer questions on the data provided and more specifically what government was doing to address human trafficking concerns and what plans are in place to cater for humanitarian efforts for those groups needing assistance.
Committee member and government minister Nicolette Henry questioned why emphasis was being placed on the number of Haitians not departing Guyana since if an analysis of the figures from a percentage perspective was conducted then it would show a 30% non- departure rate for persons from Bangladesh. “Why not the Bangladeshis?” she questioned.
The Committee Chairman directed her to the matrix provided by the Minister of Citizenship which she stressed reveals that only 300 Bangladeshis arrived in Guyana between 2013 and 2018 with 74 showing as remaining here compared to the data on Haitians for the same period.
The committee has until July 4th 2018, the date of the next meeting, when members will return with possible questions for the two ministers to provide clarity.