Haitians in protective custody pending document verification ; police awaiting legal advice

Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017, 22:18 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Winston Felix.

Several Haitian adults and children are in protective custody of Guyanese authorities as efforts are underway to translate and authenticate documents concerning the minors, Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Winston Felix said Monday.

“What I do know is that they  (Haitians) came in with documents which we have to have translated first and then verified. They came with children. Now, for you to move around with children from one airport to another airport, you got to get the consent of the parent in writing. They came with documents in French intended to establish their bona fides,” Felix told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Minister said if the documents were written in English, “we would have probably gotten over the other hurdles by now.” Felix said he could not say whether there was suspicion of trafficking in persons (TIP) because he is unsure what is written on the documents.

Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA), Ann Greene told Demerara Waves Online News that up to Sunday (May 29, 2017) five children between the ages of four and 14 years old were in her care. “Some of the children are in my care…Some have not come with parents,” she said.

Another senior official of the Ministry of Social Protection, who is familiar with the issue, said initially 32 Haitians were initially interviewed and were being provided with psycho-social support.

Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud would only say that “investigations targeting the local facilitators are being conducted.” The Head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Superintendent Wendell Blanhum said legal advice is being sought.

Ultimately, authorities said it would be the police that would determine whether the situation could be termed human trafficking.

Asked whether the more than 100 Haitian visitors who arrived in Guyana aboard a Fly Jamaica chartered flight several weeks ago had returned to their homeland directly from Guyana, he said “to the best of my knowledge they have departed.” He could not say whether they return to Haiti.

Suspicions are that the Haitians arrive here then leave for neighbouring Suriname en route to French Guiana.

Suriname recently introduced visas for Haitians arriving there, in an effort to screen them prior to their arrival in that former Dutch colony. Officials in Paramaribo have said that  too many Haitians have been landing there by plane on their way to French Guiana but they could not communicate properly and could not convince immigration sufficiently about arrangements for their onward journey.

Back in September 2016, at least 12 Haitian men had been caught in Linden heading to neighbouring Brazil.