The unfair treatment being meted out to Guyanese in Barbados and in Antigua should be condemned in the strongest manner by all right-minded persons within the Region. In condemning what is taking place now in both countries, those who are willing to speak should be mindful of the contribution that immigrants have played in the development of both countries.
This harassment of Guyanese, particularly in Barbados, preceded the edit issued by the government of Barbados to all undocumented non-nationals to regularize their status. There is a bench at the immigration section at the Grantley Adams International Airport which is popularly called the Guyana bench, because it is used to seat those who require further interrogation before entry into Barbados and the group which mostly is to be found on this bench are Guyanese.
Now we have come to an edit issued by the Barbadian government urging that all undocumented Guyanese regularize their status. This may on the surface seem as the means through which those Guyanese who are illegal in that country can legalize their status. Do not be fooled. Only those persons who can prove that they arrived and have been in Barbados for the past eight years will qualify for regularization, and this will be a very small amount since the vast majority of illegal Guyanese are those who have been within the country for the past few years. In effect, what we are facing is the imminent expulsion of hundreds of Guyanese who are working in that country.
As mentioned yesterday, it is shameful that a leading trade union organization within the Caribbean could have issued a statement urging these undocumented nationals to go and regularize their status. I hope the same CCL will provide succor to the many who are likely, when they attempt to do so, to be asked to leave Barbados.
Instead of trying to address the unfair harassment of Guyanese living in Barbados, the CCL presents a smokescreen by arguing that the debate should be about those governments which do not create jobs for their nationals, thereby forcing them to leave their homeland to seek greener pastures.
If there is any government which is to blamed for Guyanese having to leave because of economic reasons, it cannot be the incumbent regime in Guyana. For it was not that regime which in the face of deafening criticism from regional leaders, reduced Guyana to the second poorest nation in the hemisphere.
The debate therefore, cannot be about governments which do not create jobs. The debate has to be a much wider debate as to countries such as Barbados being more accommodating to nationals from Guyana. The standard of living of Guyana has been steadily improving over the years, to the point where we Guyanese at home are far better off than they were twenty years ago.
And yet there is a pull factor. There is a pull factor because the per capita income of countries such as Barbados is many times that of Guyana. In 1992 when the PPP administration took power, the per capita income in Trinidad for example was ten times that of Guyana. And given this fact, it will even with high growth rates, take in excess of fifty years for Guyana, if ever, to catch up with the per capita income of Trinidad.
The point therefore, is that this whole argument about governments having to do more for their people is non-argument, given the degree to which the Guyana economy fell, it is impossible for the pull factor to disappear.
It should also be noted that even for a relatively rich country like Trinidad, there is still a pull factor for that country’s nationals. For despite the fact of Trinidad’s per capita income being more than ten times that of Guyana, many Trinidadians are still leaving in droves for North America. Why? The reason is because there are similar pull factors which attract Guyanese and other nationals to Barbados. People will always be seeking out greener pastures, however comfortable their existence is.
But while the CCL’s statement is highly unfortunate, the one that emanated from a columnist in this newspaper is downright disgusting. One Freddie Kissoon wrote a nasty headline this past week indicating that Barbados would not allow a Little Berbice, such as there is in New York, to develop in that country. He stereotyped the persons who live in that little area in New York known as Queens as being backward and primitive, through his headline about someone with a towel around his naked body, a toothbrush in his mouth and Kanchan blazing in the background.
On the very day that his revolting piece was published, there was an article in the New York Times, New York area edition which discussed the same Richmond Hill/ Queens area – the homes to thousands of East Indians from Guyana. That article in fact, highlighted the entrepreneurial skills of the immigrants and the contributions that they have made as immigrants to the city of New York.
Whatever can be said of Guyanese immigrants, the fact remains that they give more to the societies in which they live, whether legally or illegally, than they take. And Barbados, in harassing Guyanese, will eventually realize the mistake they are making through their misguided immigration policies.
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