Even if you factor in applications from Cubans, Haitians and Chinese living in Guyana, the large percentage (almost 70 percent) of refusal for visitor’s visa for last year takes Guyana back to the eighties where there was a mere trickle of visa issuance.
If the US Embassy refused 70 percent of applicants for 2018 for non-immigrant stamps, it means that they are in possession of intelligence that guide the Embassy into the acceptance that Guyanese are fleeing and would renege on returning after their visit.
Very few countries see a 70 percent rejection. When that happens, the US concludes that recipients are going to stay illegally.
How do you explain it from the high number of permits in 2015 and 2016, and 25,000 in 2017 to drop substantially in 2018 to less than 5000? The analysts at the Embassy will have data and information that we don’t. We can only speculate.
I believe that coming to the end of 2017, the Embassy saw a deluge of applications, which came essentially from rural areas in Region Four and from Regions Two, Three, Five and Six.
This influx made the US suspicious because unlike 2016 and previous years from 2011 onwards, there was a noticeable drop in returnees in 2017. This is where the analysts at the Embassy come from. They would have offered to the State Department the theory that certain sections of the population do not want to remain and are using the non-immigrant permit to stay in the US.
By the beginning of 2018, armed with this theory, the State Department would have directed its consular staff here to drastically cut the number offered and this is what has happened. Let us expand of the assessment by the Embassy Officers in Georgetown.
I think there has been a definite decision on the part of certain sections of the population to leave Guyana because of what they see as the coming of an autocratic government by the PNC, which will see the return of rigged elections.
Now a caveat is in order. Whether the US Embassy or I believe this to be true is not the point. The point is this is the way certain parts of Guyana feel and it has found expression is a deluge of visa applications and a graphic upswing of Guyanese visitors not coming back.
Let us for the sake of argument believe that people think this way, what are the variables involved to guide research?
One – the anticipation is that bad days are coming and discrimination will intensify, discrimination that harps back to the seventies and eighties.
Two- these constituencies that are applying in large numbers to the Embassy believe that the AFC is dead and that you really have a PNC government that they are not happy with.
Three- the PPP as an opposition party is fueling this kind of desperation. But it is unreasonable to ask an opposition party that wants power to play by the game. The pellucid truth is that when the PNC and AFC were in opposition, they preached the politics of doom and gloom and it worked. They got their supporters galvanized and their rhetoric did make PPP enclaves feel that Guyana will not have a placid future.
Four – certain inexplicable decisions by the APNU+AFC regime has cemented the instincts of fear. These include the unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman; the failure to secure viable alternative employment for sugar workers and payment of monies due in time; types of public service employment practices.
Five – slow progress in the economy that make people feel that harsh economic times are ahead despite oil discovery. Six – the unabated crime situation.
The visa reduction was so enormous that it cannot be easily dismissed. The enormity of the rejection cries out for explanation. A country does not see 25,000 recipients drop to 4,500 in a single year. It tells you the Embassy is on to something.
Our speculation could be more plausible if the figures could be broken down by the ten regions of Guyana. Is it possible that there was a huge amount of applications from former Berbice sugar workers? The consular officers assessed them as people wanting to flee?
It is possible, too, that there was an increase in low-income applicants, which the Embassy would have deemed as people posing the greatest risk of not coming back. It would help the researchers too if the Embassy would publish statistics of how many visitors remained in the US in 2017.
Of course, the US Embassy will have the last laugh when they read about Lincoln Lewis’s cry of putting Guyanese first in Guyana.
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