A recent case involving allegations of finger rape has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity between Barbados and Jamaica. The Jamaicans are not sitting back idly and allowing this case to take the same course as what has happened to so many others, including Guyanese.
Guyana can draw many lessons from how the Jamaicans have approached this issue. The Jamaicans have shown that they are not prepared to allow ill-treatment of one of their nationals by the Barbadian immigration authorities.
The Barbadian Government on the other hand is painting a completely different picture. They are disclaiming any wrongdoing and suggesting that the woman’s story has many contradictions.
This case has riveted public attention within the Caribbean and no doubt is being looked at further afar and this is no doubt in the main due to the fact that the Jamaicans were simply not prepared to make a few whimpers and let the matter die as so many others involving Guyanese have in years gone by.
For decades, Guyanese have been subject to harassment at Barbadian airports. It was even said that there is a special Guyanese bench. The President of Guyana has complained publicly about the treatment meted out to Guyanese and had even entered into a meaningless arrangement with that country to have local immigration authorities go to that country to look at the way things operate.
Just how this was intended to deal with the ill-treatment of some Guyanese when they arrive in Barbados is still not fully clear. What is obvious is that there had long been the need for retaliatory measures against Barbados that would have signified Guyanese seriousness about the way some of its nationals were being treated at airports in Barbados.
Guyana did not wish to be seen as anti-immigration towards Barbados or to respond in a tit-for tat manner. And this would never have been an advisable course of action. However, the Guyanese authorities have consistently failed to effect any significant change in the way some of its nationals are treated despite this matter being raised even at the level of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.
Jamaica is also treating this matter seriously but unlike Guyana, has dispatched a high-level delegation Barbados to discuss the case. This is how Guyana should have responded. It should have long ago acted by sending a top level diplomatic team to demonstrate both the degree of seriousness with which it was treating this problem and the fact that it would not allow transgressions against its nationals to be dealt with lightly.
Despite the efforts made by Guyana, there does not seem to be any relaxation in the manner in which Guyanese are treated in Barbados. In fact, no so long ago, a number of Guyanese were rounded up in controversial circumstances as part of a campaign against illegal aliens even though there is supposed to be free movement of skilled persons within the Region.
In fairness to the Barbadian Government, it has an obligation to ensure that it reduces the incidence of persons wishing to ensure that its immigration rules are obeyed and it has a similar duty to safeguard itself against persons overstaying their time in that country or entering the country for the purposes to being illegal aliens.
Where the problem arises is if the process is not fair but is discriminatory and arbitrary whereby the nationals of some countries are prohibited from entering.
The Barbados authorities are denying that the Jamaican woman at the centre of the present incident was cavity searched. It may have a hard time convincing the Jamaicans that there was no cavity search.
The Barbadians would also know that the people of Jamaica are not going to let this one die a natural death but would be expecting some sort of changes for the better.
Guyana should do likewise. Guyana should now seriously engage the Barbadian authorities and demand an end to the base of Guyanese at airports in Barbados. At the same time, Guyana should respect Barbados’s right to determine who should enter their country but should insist that the rules be fair and the system be transparent.
A great many Guyanese spend thousands of dollars to go to Barbados. Those that are turned back at the Grantley Adams Airport naturally would feel humiliated and cheated of their airfares.
As such what is required is for an agreement not about the exchange of immigration authorities, even though this can have the benefit of encouraging greater understanding. What is needed is a transparent system of rules that would allow for fair admission standards.
Another option would be an experiment whereby Barbadian immigration officers are stationed in Guyana and Trinidad airports. This would allow a prior determination of whether the person would be admitted to Barbados before the person arrives in that country.
Thus, for example if there is a direct flight to Barbados from Guyana, then passengers would be processed at Timehri and would not have to clear immigration when they arrive in Barbados.
In the case of Guyanese arriving in Barbados through Trinidad, then this processing can take place at the point of departure in Trinidad so as to avoid someone having to sit on that special bench which it is said is reserved for Guyanese.
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