Citizenship Minister, Winston Felix, says immigration officers, on Tuesday, intercepted twelve persons who were attempting to enter Guyana illegally via the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
The persons, all of whom arrived on Copa Airline flight CM254 at 2:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon, included six (6) Haitians, four (4) Cubans, two (2) Russians and a Colombian. They did not have visas, or money in the case of the Colombian.
Felix, who called a press conference to alert the public about the incident, explained to reporters that the Haitians produced a letter purportedly issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guyana and which purported to grant them entry into Guyana. Felix says that immigration officers have informed him that the use of such letters by illegal migrants is common.
A government spokeswoman later clarified that the Russian woman did not meet immigration requirements and so her husband, who was properly documented, opted to leave Guyana with her.
“Anybody producing a letter from Foreign Affairs is outside the off-stump, dead wrong,” the minister said, explaining that when the Foreign Affairs Ministry has persons coming to Guyana they usually alert immigration.
All six (6) Haitians were sent back and so was the Colombian.
In the case of the two Russians, Felix says they are a married couple and that the wife “was suspected of being connected to illegal migration.” Felix hints that the woman may be involved in Trafficking in Persons (TIP). He said that the she was turned back, and that her husband, with whom immigration officers had no issue, decided to leave with her.
Felix further explained that the four Cubans include two women and two children – ages three (3) and six (6). They too are suspected as being involved in “illegal migration.”
“They refused to go back so we’ve tried to find suitable places to accommodate them and the children,” Felix said. Asked where the women and children are being held, the minister said he is not sure but that it ought to be between the airport and” the Timerhi Police Station.
The Citizenship minister is of the opinion that such illegal travel to Guyana has been happening for some time now, but is only now coming to light.
He is calling on airlines operating out of Guyana to conduct more stringent due-diligence when they sell tickets to migrants, and he says that at some point enforcements authorities will become more avid in moving to prosecute persons attempting to migrate to Guyana illegally.
He said that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will be consulted as he contemplates how to deal with the issue in the future.
Just last month immigration officers intercepted eight Indian nationals who disembarked an Insel Air flight, and who were seeking entry into Guyana. The men were unable to provide adequate information on their place of accommodation and purpose for entering the country, had no visa or sufficient money and were this disallowed. They departed Guyana last Friday.