Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 March 2022, 7:56 by Denis Chabrol
At least 33 Haitians are in Barbados for more than one month now, and have told authorities there that they are awaiting visas to enter Guyana.
Guyana’s Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn told Demerara Waves Online News that he was aware of the reports but he declined to say whether or not they would be granted visas. “I got some newspaper clippings sent to me from Barbados yesterday and we’ll check on it…I’ll look into the matter and see what is the best resort,” he said.
The privately-owned Barbados Today reports that the men, women and young children arrived on that Caribbean island on February 20, 2022 and were granted six months automatic stay as nationals of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state.
Amid concerns that they have been huddled in a house in unsatisfactory conditions, they on Tuesday told Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams and Acting Chief Immigration Officer Margaret Inniss that they were not being held against their will.
Barbados Today also reports that there were no one-on-one interviews between state officials and the Haitian residents, except for a question from the Home Affairs Minister. “Is anybody here being held against their will? All who are here came to Barbados voluntarily and you are leaving to go somewhere else voluntarily? Are you being forced to stay in Barbados or being kept in Barbados against your will?”
“No,” replied the young man who spoke English.
He also referenced an agency, a 25-day stay in Barbados and a trip to Guyana.
Last Friday, Barbados TODAY reported that the Haitians were awaiting visas to enter Guyana through a process involving an agency called MPH. The agency was paid an undisclosed sum to cover transportation costs, in-transit accommodation and visas.
Over concerns about human smuggling, Guyana has banned the automatic entry of Haitians under the CARICOM regime, resulting in the need for nationals of that country to obtain visas before they arrive here. Authorities in Georgetown had suspected that the Haitians had been victims of smuggling to French Guiana and Brazil as official records show they most of them had arrived here legally but had not remained here.
Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong, after looking into the situation, disclosed at the time that some of the Haitians were upset about the length of time they were spending in Barbados since arriving on February 20 and the lingering uncertainty about when they would leave.
People living at Wanstead Gardens have been especially concerned about the number of children involved, some of whom appear to be as young as three or four years old.
In the basement, scores of young adults and children made way for Government officials to enter the apartment.
It was unclear exactly how many bedrooms, bathrooms or kitchen spaces were made available to the nearly three dozen Haitians. There was one inflatable bed in what appeared to be the living area of the apartment, but no indication of where so many people would rest their heads at night.
One young man said he was the father of three of the young children and that the other children were accompanied by relatives. But the relationship between the other five children and their so-called relatives was unclear.
The landlord, who apparently lives on the top floor of the building, was not present during the visit.
Meanwhile, migration expert Dr Olivia Smith said the matter was no “clear cut” case of human trafficking, but that the 33 Haitians ought to be treated as victims by law enforcement officials.