Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix on Monday said thousands of Haitians are leaving Guyana at several unofficial crossings to neighbouring Brazil.
Felix said “to be booked out you have to present yourself to an immigration officer”, even as he indicated the length of the border where they are crossing at Lethem, Karasabai, Aishalton. “You’ll understand what you are dealing with so to ask me why they don’t book out, you are not understanding the reality,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
His explanation came hours after former Cabinet member, Kit Nascimento, under the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led administration flayed him for using Brazilian statistics showing that almost 7,000 Haitians entered Brazil from Guyana.
“Acknowledging that the Haitians cleared customs and immigration into the country, unbelievably, he has to rely on Brazilian immigration records to tell us that just under 7,000 Haitians have arrived in that country but can offer no evidence that they have legally departed Guyana. In other words, the Haitians who arrived, under our immigration laws, are still in Guyana,” said Nascimento.
The Citizenship and Immigration Minister said the illegal movement of persons across borders was not new to Guyana. “People will not go and book out if they can get a way around it,” he said.
He added that “many of our Guyanese help us to get around” the procedure to check out of Guyana through immigration officers.
Last week, Felix challenged Nascimento to prove that Haitians were being registered to vote in Guyana’s upcoming general elections.
The Ministry of the Presidency said Nascimento’s statements that “the Haitian arrivals are carefully organised with obvious official government support were erroneous. 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. “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.