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“We have recognized we have made a mistake” in handling Haitians- govt minister; hints at softer approach

Mark Jacobs

A government minister Tuesday evening said Guyana has made mistake in the way Haitians arriving here n route to French Guiana has been handled and he hinted that that that approach would be reversed.

Junior Minister of Social Protection, Keith Scott was at the time responding to wide-ranging concerns about the status of the Haitians by attendees at a Conversation on “WALTER RODNEY: Life, Activism, and Scholarship” to mark the 37th anniversary of his assassination at the height of a civil rebellion to oust the then Forbes Burnham-led People’s National Congress dictatorship.

“As regards the current situation, I can tell you right now as of tomorrow (Wednesday) it will change. We have recognized that we are a partner to the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) free movement of people and Haiti is part of that process , and Guyana is part of that process ….we have recognized we have made a mistake …Almost with immediate effect , there will be a change of policy towards persons who have been mistreated,” said Scott, a former member of Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

Several years later, he left the WPA and formed the little known National Front Alliance (NFA) that is part of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

Farmer and social activist, Mark Jacobs first raised the plight of the Haitians at the Walter Rodney commemorative event held at the National Library, saying that they were being held captive merely for legally entering Guyana. He noted that a number of adults are being held under tight police security and their children elsewhere without knowing where each other is staying. “The government cannot say why they have removed these people and holding them hostage, holding their passports… These people are not being held against their will; they are not being trafficked. They paid someone to ferry them on to French Guiana. What’s the crime in that?,” he said. Jacobs said he visited one of the detainees and police arrived with a rifle and a handgun. He plans to seek legal assistance in favour of the Haitians.

Scott hinted at a change in government’s heart towards the Haitians one day after Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Winston Felix said eight others, including a few children who do not have monies to pay for their return tickets. Felix has also said that eight adults and six children were ordered to return to Haiti after their return tickets were upgraded.

The Immigration and Citizenship Minister has said the decision to send back the Haitians followed a police investigation and legal advice. He has described their presence in Guyana  as being part of something similar to human trafficking, while Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud said they were part of human smuggling to other countries.

The Walter Rodney forum decided to pass a resolution and dispatch it to President David Granger “to hold the government accountable.”

Suriname last year introduced visas for Haitians after they had begun turning up in large numbers there before moving on to French Guiana which also shares strong historical ties to France.

  • Col123

    Can you imagine how these folks in the government run anything?….no sharp knives in the bunch!… Now they came to their senses, and are openly saying that they will back track…black pot on their face now…. There isn’t anything better in life that to give a situation some thought, especially with others, and do the right thing. Under a similar situation , there was acomment by a schoolmaster in these forum, that “when your neighbors’ house catch afire, throw water on your own.” Wise words to live by.

    • Pam

      I hope I don’t see them in the voters line in 20/20!. They landed here without return tickets and the officials still allowed them entry into the country. Doesn’t that seem strange to you? Why is this group of aliens …….who are usually unskilled and uneducated……. suddenly good for Guyana just because they arrived here from Haiti. Interesting!!

      • Col123

        I understand your position…where we are going with this seems quite clear…but our humanity should kick in for the short period we have in this world…we need to help those in need, if we don’t , who will?

  • powerplayer

    Please do not take this personal. There is a saying Black man is his worst enemy

    Shame on you folks.

  • Col123

    Bro…I know where my shoe can pinch…I will always be a Colonel…we use that even on our grave post!..Please feel free to criticize me any time you want…