Guyana needs to improve its immigration policies. Persons coming into Guyana do not feel welcome. They are made to feel that the country is doing them a favour by allowing them in. Guyana needs a friendly environment for its visitors.
The faces of our immigration officers are not very friendly. Sometimes they make you have second thoughts about coming to Guyana. But their job is difficult and the pay is poor, and therefore the service tends, generally, to be lousy.
They are among the first faces that visitors see when they come here. They need to smile a little more. They can be professional and nice at the same time.
Visitors need a better welcome when they come to Guyana. They should be facilitated rather than subjected to all manner of archaic rules. Guyana should not be deporting as many persons as it does. Who wants to come and live here illegally?
The irony is that Guyanese have been going to other places and overstaying. There are thousands of illegal Guyanese living in the Caribbean, and many more living in Europe and North America.
Guyanese know what it feels like to be an immigrant, and this is why it is so painful to see how some foreigners, who would have overstayed their time in Guyana or not reported to the nearest port of entry upon their arrival, are treated – hauled before the courts, given a conviction on their name and then deported.
We should not be treating visitors to this country with such humiliation. Guyanese have known the pain of having a special bench in Barbados allocated for them; of being grilled about ‘show money’, seeing their names checked against a long list of undesirables and, in many instances, being out on the next plane out.
Guyana should be more welcoming to foreigners. Right now it is the Cubans who are ensuring that there is growth within the commercial sector. They are buying goods here, rolling them up into bundles and taking them back home. Without the Cubans, the commercial sector would slow appreciably.
Cubans have been good to Guyana. They have been the kindest nation to Guyana, even more kind than the Chinese. The Americans, British and Canadians are treated better. Yet, all they are after is our resources. The Cubans have given us more than we have given them. Yet we treat visitors from the ABC countries better.
Look how the Cubans are treated at our airports. No attempt is being made to ensure their comfort. They are made to congest in the area in front of the departure lounge. Better can and should be done to facilitate these entrepreneurs. They are keeping our economy afloat. They should therefore not be treated as second-class travellers.
Guyanese used to be treated this way. They used to have to sleep at the airports. They too were looked down on. Guyanese should not be repeating this with the Cubans.
A more enlightened immigration policy is needed. Travel should be simplified. Persons from the Caribbean should be able to come here without the need for a passport and without being asked to show a return ticket or ‘show money’.
This nonsense about ‘show money’ can be used to extort bribes from travellers. We are living in the electronic age. People do not need to walk with cash. They do not need money here. Everything can be done through electronic transactions or through credit purchases. We should not be asking anybody about ‘show money’.
There are some airlines who still insist that if you are travelling on a Guyanese passport, you need to have a return ticket before they will allow you on the flight, because they are fearful of you being deported and sent back on their plane. The leaders of the Caribbean Community need to put an end to this practice, which is based on the position that if you have a return ticket, you are less likely to remain in the country beyond the six months which is allotted to you.
A return ticket is no guarantee that someone will not remain in your country. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants in the United States went to that country from Guyana with a return ticket. It is a small price to pay for the opportunity to turn a holiday into a ‘holistay’.
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