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The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) calls on the Irfaan Ali government to remove visa restrictions for Haitians. Haitians deserve protection and respect consistent with the vision and protocols adumbrated by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and of which the country is a member. In times of national crisis, which Haiti is experiencing, citizens are deserving of protection consistent with Human Rights Conventions and Declarations.
All Guyana must raise their voice in unison to remove a restriction that is not only poorly thought-out and an unwise policy, but also places at risk the CARICOM Integration Movement and long-standing good relations with the Government of Haiti. The double standards must not find support amongst us. If Venezuelans and Brazilians who are not part of CARICOM, and many of whom reside within proximity of the Office of the President, are allowed visa free access to Guyana, our sister CARICOM country is no less deserving.
Guyanese have always sought to migrate or visit countries in CARICOM and the wider Caribbean. CARICOM nations do not have visa requirements for Guyanese. But whenever Guyanese complain of being hassled at those airports or denied entry the Government of Guyana is quick to address the situation, often calling attention to the values of the Integration Movement and Free Movement of People. Guyanese must now direct similar attention to their government given their unequal treatment to Haitians. We must collectively agitate for what is right, just, fair and equal.
Recall is made of the Barbados situation, specifically when the country was seeking to enforce its Immigration Laws and streamline compliance with the Free Movement of People under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The David Thompson government was calling on non-Barbadians to regularise their status but the reaction that government received from the Government of Guyana was swift and brutal.
The then Bharrat Jagdeo government, with the support of co-opted allies, waged a public assault (campaign) against the Thompson government, including accusing that administration of being involved in xenophobia. It was realised the response was out of concern that East Indian Guyanese, who were thought to be residing on the island without the required documentation, were considered in the majority and would have been most affected.
Caribbean integration is premised on the intent of harnessing the cultural, economic, social, and political resources of the peoples of the region for the development of the peoples within the region. The free movement of the peoples is a part of. For instance, in the early 1970s Trinidad, an oil rich country, assisted Barbados in improving its airport to respond to the demands of the tourist industry for the creation of jobs for Barbadian citizens.
In like manner, Trinidad and Tobago gave Guyana significant credit to meet Guyana’s petroleum needs and some of this debt was written off by the Trinidad government. In the past, Guyana accommodated our Caribbean brothers and sisters from other parts of the region who came here seeking economic opportunities, including employment, farming, gold mining, and other business ventures.
The issue of Caribbean integration cannot be overlooked as we seek to address Haitians coming to Guyana and the economic pursuit and dignity of those who are coming here to seek opportunities. There is much more to this issue than meets the eyes. And whereas Haitians may not at this juncture in their history have the economic or political wherewithal to mount a spirited response, GTUC calls on the People of Guyana to do so on their behalf. Lest it be forgotten, as citizens of the region and world Guyanese rely on the humanity of others to navigate their daily lives. Haitians are no less deserving. The visa requirement must be lifted forthwith.