On the last four occasions and as recently as January 18th, 2018, whilst an outgoing passenger at Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, I was asked to open my locks so that someone could run their hands through my hair.
I consider this to be profiling of Rastfari persons. During the times that I have been asked to open my hair persons of Indian descent with long hair have been allowed to pass without the same request. The same for persons with long braid extensions, piled a mile high, on their heads, and persons of the Islamic faith with their hijabs. Why then am I asked to open my hair so that the immigration or customs officers can run their hands through? As a matter of fact, I have had to insist on all occasions that I will not allow anyone to pass their hands through my hair, rather I will do so myself. The persons doing the finger-combing are the same officers who are touching other persons without gloves. If this is a policy and the rationale for the policy is making sure persons are not trafficking prohibited items in their hair, it is not being implemented fairly. Incidentally, I have never had this request at the Ogle International Airport.
I have gone through airports in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and in the Caribbean and was never asked to open my hair. Surely, the airport security system in Guyana is not more stringent than all the other airports. The method to address the trafficking of drugs through Guyanese airports by drug mules is not to profile and unfairly target an entire group of persons, such as Rastafari or people with locks. I am therefore asking the persons with responsibility for immigration to kindly explain and or desist from asking persons with locks to open and or have immigration officers run their hands through their hair.
Richie Spice, the Jamaican singer, has a song called the ‘Plane Land’ about his trepidation as a Rastafari man going through airports in the United States and Europe. Guyanese Rastafari persons should not have to endure the same in their own country. On the very same day that I was asked to let someone run their hands through my hair in Guyana as a security necessity, I checked myself into Jamaica using an automated immigration kiosk.
Candice Rowena Ramessar