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…says no capacity in Guyana to handle large influx of Haitians, Cubans
… Brazilian Gov’t complains that Guyana being used as a human transshipment point
Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall has denied accusations that the detention of 26 Haitians who travelled recently to Guyana has anything to do with ethnicity.
Speaking on Tuesday on Trinidad and Tobago’s CCN TV6, Nandlall said that complaints have come from the Brazilian Government that Guyana is being used as a human transshipment point not only for Haitians but for thousands of Cubans, many of which are transiting illegally.
While the 26 Haitians are still in Guyana awaiting the High Court’s decision on whether their rights as Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals are being violated, 1,000 Cubans are currently camping at South Drain, Suriname desirous of transiting Guyana to the United States for asylum.
“[It’s] not because of the ethnicity of the people but because of the issue at hand,” the AG told the programme’s host, Fazeer Mohammed.
“We have a complaint from the Brazilian government to say that Guyana is being used as a transshipment point for people smuggling into Brazil and we’re being blamed for that. We are not an island, we are a mainland and we have extraordinarily wide borders that are almost impossible to monitor… the 26 Haitians that you’re speaking about, for example, we simply don’t have the physical capacity to keep persons,” Nandlall said.
The AG stated that among the 26 were two children and persons who previously claimed to be their parents but are not their parents. He said that the parents of the children are in French Guiana but the group was reportedly on its way to Brazil.
The AG also said that he has reason to believe that the group of Haitians are involved in human trafficking and the public should not look at the matter at face value but for the complex situation that it is.
Former AG, Basil Williams has countered Nandlall’s position. Williams condemned the detention of the Haitians and the attempts to deport them, noting that Guyana’s Immigration Laws provide for Haitians to remain here for up to six months
While the Guyana Chronicle had previously reported Nandlall as stating that Haitians are “aliens under the Constitution [of Guyana]” because they did not sign on to the free-movement aspect of CARICOM’s Single Market and Economy (CSME), Williams had disagreed. On Tuesday, Nandlall admitted that his statement was an error on his part.
“When I made those statements, the legal papers were served on me just minutes before. I was in a Court and I made statements that I later recognized to be not in accordance with the law and that issue will be addressed at an appropriate time,” the AG said.
However, in solidifying his point that the refusal of entry of Cubans or the detention and attempted deportation of Haitians is not tied to discrimination, the AG explained the constraints that Guyana faces.
“Currently we are dealing with a situation where it is believed that there is a move to assemble some 10,000 Cubans on Guyana’s soil before the end of December to converge at the US Embassy here in Georgetown and or to join a caravan that would go over to Brazil on its way to Mexico along the highways of America. We have a 1,000 or more assembled at the borders of Suriname attempting to cross illegally,” he began.
“I recognise that we are dealing with human beings, and we’re dealing with children and we’re dealing with women. I’m not oblivious to that fact at all and that is what adds to the complexity of the situation. There’s no right way out, perhaps, but governments sometimes have to make difficult decisions,” Nandlall added.
He said that countries in the Caribbean that have faced similar challenges have imposed VISA restrictions on Haitians but Guyana has not done so. However, he did underscore that the matter is a serious one that the country must deal with “in a serious way”.
Further, Nandlall said that former Minister of Public Security with responsibility for Immigration, Khemraj Ramjattan has gone on record stating that thousands of Haitians are entering Guyana in transit to Brazil, a position the Brazilian Government has expressed its displeasure about. He said that though Guyana is a large country, it has a small population and such large influxes of persons can have devastating consequences for such a small economy.
On that matter of alleged ethnic motivations, the AG iterated: “The allegations are nonsensical and the least said about them the better.”