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—-Greenidge says complaint on immigration violations filed with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge said Guyana could be cited for human rights abuse before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) during a hearing on the ‘Situation of Human Rights of Haitian People in Human Mobility in the Region,’ expected shortly.
In a column ‘The single market, international trade, international disputes and the rule of law,’ Greenidge explained that the forum will feature testimonies on the alleged escalation in ‘the cycle of migration-related abuses and torture faced by Haitian Migrants in their journeys across the Americas’.
“Those reports which refer to well-documented abuses stemming from racism in North and Central America are also expected to highlight the growing incidence of similar abuses in the Caribbean whose member states, signatories to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, are obliged to permit Haitians hassle-free travel and an automatic six-month stay upon entry,” Greenidge further explained.
According to him, reports suggest that an agency is likely to pinpoint Guyana as among countries which have arbitrarily stripped Haitians of the right to hassle-free travel.
“It is reported that there are numerous incidents of serious abuse which, “unfold in the context of a rising tide of racist and xenophobic rhetoric in Guyana and other CARICOM states that stigmatize [sic] Haitian migrants as undesirable…,”” Greenidge said.
In January 2021, Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George quashed deportation orders which were granted by the Magistrates’ Court against the 26 Haitians, who were detained by the State, on the grounds that there was a breach of natural justice.
Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus had granted orders for the 26 Haitian nationals to be deported, however, the Chief Justice, in quashing the orders, said there was a clear breach of the natural justice provisions.
When the case – Allandres Archer-v-The Attorney General – came up in the High Court on December 18, 2020, the Chief Justice had asked the Attorney General Anil Nandlall to indicate whether the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act was strictly complied with by the State in the handling of the Haitians, whom the State claimed were alleged TIP victims.
In her ruling, the Chief Justice said it was also clear that Article 139 of the Constitution, which provides for the protection of the right to personal liberty, and Article 148, protection of freedom of movement, were also breached.
The Haitians, seven of whom were children, were arrested hours after their arrival in Guyana on November 7, and transported to the Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration at Onverwagt, Region Five on November 10.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had said that the Haitians were part of a Human Trafficking ring, but the President of the Association of Haitian Nationals in Guyana, Kesnel Toussaint, in rebuffing the claim, said the Haitians were all granted a six month stay upon their arrival in Guyana on November 7, 2020.
Months after the January 2021 ruling, President Irfaan Ali signed an Immigration Revocation Order essentially quashing the visa-free travel once enjoyed by Haitians coming to Guyana. The order, according to the government, stemmed from concerns that Guyana is being used as a transshipment destination for human smuggling.
But Greenidge, in his column, said Haitians have been arrested, fined and deported on grounds that they are victims of people trafficking but the perpetrators escape the attention of the law.
“The Attorney General (AG) and legal system prefer to penalise the victim,” he said.
The former Foreign Minister added: “In any case, most Haitians, as the figures show and the authorities admit, use Guyana as a point of transit to French Guiana, Brazil and as far afield as Chile. Consequently, there are far more Venezuelans, Cubans and Brazilians in Guyana than there ever are Haitians.
The Venezuelans and Brazilians are visible on the streets of Georgetown and most are trafficked or employed without ever acquiring work permits. Yet unlike the Haitians they do not attract anything like a proportional attention of the Police. It is this inconsistency, if not absurdity, rather than stupid or biased observations, which is giving rise to questions about Guyana’s policies.”
Greenidge warned that being the subject of human rights violation before the IACHR can have adverse implications for Guyana’s international standing.
Photo saved as Haitians
Caption: File Photo: Attorney-at-Law, Darren Wade speaks to the Haitian nationals while they were detained at the Hugo Chavez Centre in the later part of 2020