The Immigration Department of the Ministry of Citizenship must face a full-fledged investigation, according to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo.
He made this demand after Kaieteur News revealed that 8,600 Haitian Nationals entered Guyana for 2019, so far. According to figures this publication acquired, in January, 952 passengers arrived from Haiti. From February to July, it was 673, 345, 1321, 2010, 1749 and 1552 respectively.
They all arrived on flights of the Panamanian-owned Copa Airlines.
Jagdeo, during a press conference Wednesday, provided further statistics for previous years.
“In 2013, 188 persons came and 99 departed. In 2014, 227 came, 113 departed. In 2015, 770 came, 136 departed. In 2016, 722 came, 451 departed. In 2017, 3515 came, 291 departed. Up to April 30th of 2018, we had 1238 that came and 85 that departed so far,” he said of Haitian Nationals.
The figures raise grave concerns about just where these persons are going.
Holding up a copy of Kaieteur News, Jagdeo exclaimed, “This headline today is a shocking one!
“It is unbelievable that these numbers could come in, and that the government is not involved.”
He noted that Haitians, as CARICOM nationals, are eligible to come to Guyana and stay for six months, but only as visitors.
In this regard, he said, “you still have to prove where you’re going, and stuff like that. You’re eligible. All CARICOM nationals are eligible, but not to work.”
He said that too many people are coming in, and not leaving after six months. Therefore, he has concluded that they are not regular visitors. If they have come to work, Jagdeo said it is necessary for them to be granted work permits and TIN certificates. He contends that they are being helped by the government.
“This is a special group of people who are brought here in an organised fashion. And so, the immigration department should be investigated. You can’t have, every two days, people putting an address like Sunflower Hotel when your place has maybe 25 rooms.”
Kaieteur News had reported that a group of Haitian Nationals were brought in on Tuesday last, and passengers of one of the buses had interacted multiple times with persons at the Sunflower Hotel and Fast Food Restaurant on the corner of Cummings and South Road, in Georgetown.
“Clearly,” Jagdeo continued, “there has to be collusion with some officials at Immigration. Because, when a man comes into the country, you still go to immigration and say where you’re staying. You still have to go through that process. They must have seen this pattern, every single day.”
The Opposition Leader continued, stating that it would be interesting to know what the intended addresses are listed as on the immigration forms, for these 8,600 people.
Further, he said that it isn’t just Immigration department that needs to be investigated.
He also thinks there should be an investigation of the General Registrar’s Office (GRO). He said that this department also comes under the Ministry of the Presidency, under the purview of Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix.
“I don’t trust Felix.” Jagdeo proclaimed.
Felix had earlier this month, denied claims that there is a “people smuggling ring” in Guyana.
“I make it clear. Felix is untrustworthy. I don’t trust him. He has a department there that falls directly under him, that has been working on digitising people’s records at GRO. In addition, I heard there are others there who might be responsible for issuing fake documents, birth certificates
He said that many Haitians have been hired as security workers and other similar jobs.
“So you’re required to get a work permit when you come to Guyana. Normally, you issue work permits for skilled labourers mainly and specialised skill. Here, we hear that the Ministry of the Presidency has been issuing work permits. We don’t know how many they have issued, and whether people have to pay for. Then, we should check GRA.”
The Opposition Leader contends that, since TIN certificates are necessary to work, and the Haitians are receiving work permits, then the amount of TIN certificates being issued could call into question whether the Guyana Revenue Authority is involved.
“This requires a full-fledged investigation. It has morphed from what I believe is a people smuggling ring into an attempt to get people registered for elections.”
A question hot on the lips of many is, if these people are coming in droves, and there is no record of most of them leaving, then – for what purpose are they coming?
Jagdeo contends that they are being brought in to be illegally registered during the House-to-House registration process. He has said before that he worries there are attempts to register foreigners to interfere with the credibility of the upcoming General and Regional Elections.
On Wednesday, he said, “I’ve heard that the Haitians have to pay US$5000 to come and get new documents from which they can go elsewhere. With 8,000 people having to pay US$5000 each, this is US$40M. That’s the magnitude of this “could-be” people smuggling ring that is now part of wanting to tamper with elections.”
He said it is believed that people are being issued with fake documents.
“We believe that they are being registered quietly in some areas by some enumerators who might be close to APNU (A Partnership for National Unity), since the activity is not being scrutinised.”
By law, Commonwealth citizens are eligible to vote if they’ve been resident in Guyana for at least one year. Jagdeo was keen to note that he is not referring to those persons.
“Many of these foreign nationals – not just Haitians, but others – who are not eligible… They will form part of the new voters’ list if House-to-House registration succeeds.”
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