Guyana continues crackdown on human smuggling, as Suriname reports spike in Indians, Pakistanis

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 April 2023, 15:13 by Denis Chabrol

At least 2,500 nationals of India and Pakistan have entered neighbouring Suriname legally over the past several  months, and officials believed that many of them have entered Guyana en route to the United States through Mexico.

While Guyana’s Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn could not immediately provide figures, Suriname’s Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Ramdin said Indians, Pakistanis, Cubans and more recently Nepalese have been arriving on flights including those from Trinidad.

Mr Ramdin said a committee has now made recommendations to stem the influx of foreign nationals by introducing more admission requirements.  He said travelers would soon have to indicate the purpose of their intended visit, demonstrate means of subsistence and also provide a contact person in Suriname to the authorities. “We do ask these questions, but then the people are already here,” Mr Ramdin was quoted as telling the Surinamese newspaper, De Ware Tijd.

“Our social security system can’t handle that,” he added.

The Surinamese newspaper reported that most of the Asians are between 25 and 35 years old.

Mr  Benn said not only persons of those nationalities were coming but others have been arriving here and “moving further on” to the US-Mexican border. He said government was making roads against human smuggling. “We have been working at it for years now since we took office and we have decreased the amount of smuggling that has been going on but of course it is surreptitious involving corruption sometimes but we have broken up most of the rings and we are continuing to work at it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

While he did not immediately have figures, the Home Affairs Minister said there was no recent upsurge. Part of the operation, he said, was sending back to Suriname, the last country from where they have arrived. “We’ve been putting them back over the border to Suriname. When we catch them, we put them back over to Suriname or wherever,” he said.

The Home Affairs Minister said a few Nepalese and Nigerians arrived in Guyana with forged documents and were returned.

He said none of the foreign nationals has been linked to a recent security alert by the United States Embassy in Guyana.

Demerara Waves Online News was told that often times bookings are made in the names of small hotels in Guyana but in many instances, the foreigners do not go there but continue their journey to the Guyana-Brazil border with onward connections to the Mexico-US border.

More than three years ago, concerns had been raised about the large influx of Haitians who had arrived here legally but had never checked out at immigration on their way to French Guiana via Suriname or Brazil. Shortly after returning to office in 2020, the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration had detained numerous Haitians on the Lethem-Linden trail and at a hotel in Berbice.

Subsequently, Guyana reintroduced visas for Haitians who would like to come to Guyana to flee worsening social, political and economic conditions in their homeland.

De Ware Tijd reported that Suriname has relaxed its restrictions on Haitians that had been introduced due to suspected human smuggling. Now, certain categories of  those nationals are allowed to travel to Suriname unhindered. From July 2022, foreigners no longer need a visa to travel to Suriname; only a valid passport and they have to pay an entry fee of US$25 upon arrival at the border posts.