Since 2015, over 900 foreign nationals became citizens of Guyana.
This was reported yesterday by Minister with responsibility for Citizenship, Winston Felix, during a press conference at his Shiv Chanderpaul Drive office.
The issue has taken front burner in recent months after it was noticed that a significant number of foreigners were in Guyana and being registered.
Among them are Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans.
The Opposition has made it clear that it suspects that the Government was registering foreigners in exchange for votes.
However, the administration has vehemently denied this, stating there is sufficient evidence that the Cubans and Haitians were just using Guyana as a stepping stone.
There were 8,476 Haitians who arrived here between January and July 2019. There were 6,925 of them who reported to Brazilian immigration officials after crossing the border, which separates the two countries.
Yesterday, Felix stressed that open borders at Lethem, Region Nine and Berbice with its several back-track routes, have been posing significant challenges.
In 2015, 141 persons were granted citizenship and between 2016 and July 2019, the figures were 192, 230, 252 and 108. The persons came from on average 40 different countries.
During the same period, eight Haitians were registered.
The minister back in August, under pressure to explain the large number of especially Haitians who were shown not to be departing, said that Haitians arriving in Guyana are capitalising on the free movement of people within the region to travel to Guyana and to other states.
There were little explanations why the foreign nationals were not stamping in at immigration at the Takutu Bridge, Lethem before crossing to Brazil.
The issue has been burning enough with accusations in some quarters that the Opposition wanted to whip xenophobia feelings using the Haitians as scapegoat.
Investigations by Kaieteur News had suggested an organized group of persons who were facilitating the arrivals of foreign nationals from Cuba and Haiti in Guyana for further transport to especially the Brazil border in Region Nine.
Vehicles picked them up at the airport at Timehri before they were whisked away to city hotels.
Within hours, there were placed in minibuses and taken through several police checkpoints for a 12-15 hours drive through Linden to Lethem.
Persons were said to be collecting a premium, including drivers and others.
Felix said last month that 8,476 Haitians arrived here and 1,170 later departed officially.
Brazil’s immigration records show that 6,925 Haitians arrived in that country from Guyana.
Addressing the disparity in the figures between the Haitians’ departure from Guyana and the arrival figure recorded in Brazil, Minister Felix explained that some of the travellers would have departed Guyana without reporting to local immigration officers, although there are opportunities for doing so. But on arrival in Brazil, they would have presented themselves to the immigration authorities.
The Minister had recalled that he made a full disclosure to the Parliamentary sub-committee on Foreign Relations after being summoned before it in July 2018, where he had provided an explanation on the movement of the Haitians.
“In 2019, now that we are in an election cycle, the Opposition is at it again and they are going back to the very issues which we discussed in the Foreign Relations sub-committee – with added features. They are still claiming that there are large numbers of Haitian arrivals.”
Felix added, “They have not fact-checked anything I said previously, but they have come up with their own misleading information which has no basis in fact or in truth.”
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