Georgetown, Guyana - (August 16, 2019) Minister of Citizenship, Mr. Winston Felix, has again condemned claims of illegalities regarding Haitian travellers to Guyana, disclosing on Thursday that of the 8,476 Haitians who arrived here between January and July 2019, 6,925 of them reported to Brazilian immigration officials after crossing the border, which separates the two countries.
This data, Minister Felix said, corroborates records from the Department which show that the Haitians arriving in Guyana are capitalising on the free movement of people within the Region to travel to Guyana and to other states.
In an interview with the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) of the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister expressed the hope that the data garnered from the Brazilian authorities will put an end to the scurrilous allegations being peddled by some members of civil society and the Opposition, in some sections of the media.
He condemned as xenophobic statements contained in the letter titled “The Haitians are vulnerable to political exploitation of the worse kind” purportedly written by Mr. Kit Nascimento and published in the Thursday, August 15, 2019 edition of the Stabroek News. Mr. Nascimento’s statements that “the Haitian arrivals are carefully organised with obvious official government support. Their arrival has coincided with a highly suspect house-to-house registration exercise with questionable legal authority and disputed justification” are deeply offensive and baseless, the Minister said.
Minister Felix reminded that Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George, S.C., earlier this week, ruled on the legality of the house-to-house registration exercise.
“I think that statement was made out of clear eye pass and disrespect… and I would like Mr. Nascimento to know that because he has nothing to prove what he has said there. He is talking about obvious official government support. Show me who is the member of Government who supports registering Haitians to vote in this election. I think it would be just decent for the gentleman to apologize for such a statement,” Minister Felix said.
The Minister said the numbers obtained from both the Department and from Brazil confirm that the Haitians are passing through these countries on their way to a final destination. He reminded that Guyana’s immigration records show that 8,476 Haitians arrived here and 1,170 later departed.
Brazil’s immigration records show that 6,925 Haitians arrived in that country and, except for 129, the majority left.
Addressing the disparity in the figures between the Haitians’ departure from Guyana and the arrival figure recorded in Brazil, Minister Felix explained that some of the travellers would have departed Guyana without reporting to local immigration officers, although there are opportunities for doing so, but on arrival in Brazil, they would have presented themselves to the immigration authorities.
“The Opposition elements had provided figures of quite a different sort. They claimed that 8,602 Haitians arrived in Guyana and only 13 departed. I leave the public to make their own judgments on these figures,” Minister Felix said.
The Minister recalled that he made a full disclosure to the Parliamentary sub-committee on Foreign Relations after being summoned before it in July 2018, where he had provided an explanation on the movement of the Haitians.
“In 2019, now that we are in an election cycle, the Opposition is at it again and they are going back to the very issues which we discussed in the Foreign Relations sub-committee - with added features. They are still claiming that there are large numbers of Haitian arrivals. They have not fact-checked anything I said previously, but they have come up with their own misleading information which has no basis in fact or in truth,” Minister Felix said.
In her television programme “Matters of Public Importance”, hosted on July 9, 2019, Opposition Chief Whip, Ms. Gail Teixeira alleged that members of the Government and other actors, are using Haitians travelling to Guyana “to pad the Voters’ List”. Ms. Teixeira also alleged that Minister Felix and the Government are involved in smuggling and trafficking Haitians and Cubans for profit.
Minister Felix again denied these assertions and called on the Opposition to produce the evidence to support their allegations or to desist from making these spurious claims.
“So far they haven’t produced anything of substance to substantiate what they have been claiming, but they have just thrown it out there and left it like that for others to pick up and run with it. Our figures are standing in our favour in the eyes of right-thinking people in Guyana,” Minister Felix asserted.
He reminded too that the APNU + AFC Government has a good track record when it comes to tackling TIP, compared with the Peoples Progressive Party’s (PPP) during their 23 years in office.
So far, for 2019, 13 persons have been charged with TIP related offenses and none of these cases involved a Haitian, either as a victim or a perpetrator.
Further, the Minister reiterated, the Opposition’s claim that Haitians will be used to bloat the Voters’ List has no merit, adding that they can provide scrutineers during the registration exercise to ensure accountability.
“GECOM has done its public communication role by advertising the requirements for registration. The political parties…provide scrutineers to function as watchdogs on the registration process. If the PPP/C has not taken up their role as scrutineers that is a matter for them but we have done so, and I am confident that with the level of scrutineering taking place, that foreigners; be its Haitians, Cubans or whoever, cannot be registered because the requirements have been stated in the media and foreigners either need to be registered as citizens of Guyana or naturalised, both [of which] require years of residency,” he said.
Additionally, Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo’s claims that immigrants are obtaining work permits and birth certificates, published in the Friday, August 9, 2019 edition of the Stabroek News, did not escape Minister’s Felix’s attention.
This allegations are completely baseless, the Minister said, explaining that the processes for obtaining same at the General Register Office has been toughened up to prevent fraud.
“We have hardened the process to falsify birth certificates and so much scrutiny is put into the issuing of a birth certificate. So, what was possibly happening during his tenure cannot happen now. We run a tight ship, observing features of security which are essential to ensure due regularity takes place. I urge all Guyanese to make use of the facts presented and to ignore Opposition falsities on this issue,” he said.