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‘Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive’ (Water Scott). On Tuesday in the National Assembly, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud disclosed that for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) eight-month in office Guyana recorded 28 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases. This answer came from questions posed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Natasha Singh-Lewis. It was also revealed that only eight of the 28 were placed before the courts.
Guyanese could recall last November the government making allegations that there was a Trafficking in Person ring operation that included Haitians. Some Haitians were also removed from their hotel in Georgetown by members of the Guyana Police Force where they were detained for weeks at the state-run Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration. Their passports and other personal items were confiscated.
Public condemnation and legal intervention resulted in a trial and the High Court dismissing the government’s case and ordering the release of the held. It should be noted however they were released by the government prior to the judge ruling. Since then, the government has instituted visa restriction on Haitians on the pretext that it was to stop trafficking in persons. There were accompanying screaming media headlines about the quashing of visa-free travel for Haitians as part of effort to stem human trafficking.
Visa restriction is an excuse to prevent Haitians free entry as a fellow member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Though the restriction has been condemned far and wide, the government has not reversed its position. To acquire a visa the applicant has to find money to pay for the process and Guyana will exercise its ‘judgement’ to deny or grant a visa. It does not leave much speculation as to what could be the outcome based on Haitians past experience with the PPP/C government.
The TIP cases also show the government never had a case to prove Haitians were being trafficked but used human trafficking as an excuse to keep them out of Guyana. They impose visa restrictions on one group even as they leave the immigration door and borders wide open for others to come that are neither members of CARICOM nor speak English as their first language.
According to the Human Trafficking website, Human trafficking (TIP) or modern say slavery “refers to the exploitation of individuals through threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, and/or deception.” The site notes the two most commonly known forms of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labour.
TIP is illegal and should not be practiced or encouraged by anyone. Any signs of this happening should be reported to the nearest police station. To the credit of the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government much work was done to improve Guyana’s image on the international stage. Guyana could only hope the PPP/C government at least maintain if not improve on this positive ranking.