Official figures are indicating that more than 30,000 visas were granted to foreigners entering Guyana in the last five years.
According to information provided by Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, between 2013 and 2018, the largest number of visas approved was last year- 7,640 in total.
The figures were included in the response to several questions posed by members of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Relations.
Felix appeared before the committee on Thursday to update them on Government’s handling of Guyanese returning from troubled Venezuela, and migrants from that country who have come here. The committee was interested in foreigners who have been coming here and settling – asking for work permits and visas.
The committee is chaired by Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, and include as members, Ministers Nicolette Henry and Dominic Gaskin. Also on the committee for the Opposition are MPs Nigel Dharamlall and Zulfikar Mustapha.
According to the figures, in 2013, some 4,562 visas were granted. In 2014, it was 5,451; in 2015 it was 6,679; in 2016 – 4,639; in 2017 – 7,640 while to date for 2018, the number of visas issued is 3,717.
Between 2013 and 2015, according to the figures of Minister Felix, there were no data on how many of the visas were extended and the number of work permits issued.
During that period, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic was in power, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which handled citizenship, fell under the then Minister, Clement Rohee.
However, there were figures for 2016, 2017 and 2018 for both extension of visas and work permits.
In 2016, 159 visas were extended. The figures for 2017 and 2018 were 857 and 246 respectively. With regards to work permits, in 2016, there were 697 approved with the number dropping to 488 the following year. So far in 2018, just 28 work permits were issued.
A large number of companies have been opening to cater to the oil and gas industry.
There was also other information provided by Minister Felix – for example, the number of foreign nationals who have overstayed. There were no immediate indications if these have left.
According to the figures, since 2013, the number of foreign nationals overstaying have increasing from 1,539 in 2013 to more than 16,160 for this year.
With 2018 still not completed, this figure is likely to rise.
With Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Brazilians, the authorities have their hands full.
There are indications, according to Felix, that a large number of the persons come and are appearing to overstay, but are just passing through here.
In fact, the Opposition was highly suspicious of 5,000 Haitians who came here over the last five years.
However, Felix insisted Thursday that the Haitians are coming here legally, but more than likely using the backtrack route in Corentyne to head to French Guiana, via Suriname.
MP Dharamlall zeroed in on the obvious red flag of Haitians coming here in large numbers and not leaving. However, according to Felix, it is difficult to outright refuse entry to Haitians who are now recognized under CARICOM’s free movement regulations.
The Opposition has been worried that the foreign nationals are becoming residents here, opening up the way for irregularities in the election process.
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