– Felix insists no plot with Haitians, other foreigners
There are about 9,000 Venezuelan migrants in Guyana. So says Minister with responsibilities for Citizenship, Winston Felix.
The Minister was asked about the presence of the foreign nationals and government’s capacity to deal with increased applications for work permits and citizenship.
According to figures provided, there are also over 900 foreign nationals granted citizenship in the last four and half years- eight of them Haitians.
The issue of foreign nationals has been raised by the Opposition, which accused the government of registering them for citizenship, an accusation that is vehemently being denied.
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.
They were simply not checking in with local immigration when leaving. It was concluded that the Haitians and Cubans were using Guyana’s no-visa policy for them to pass through to Brazil and further afield.
There was evidence of a huge ring involved in moving the Haitians and Cubans to the Lethem, Region border, and the backtrack routes in Berbice.
For a number of years now also, Guyana has been dealing with an influx of Venezuelans who have been crossing the borders to flee hardships in their homeland.
There were about 6,000 of them in January. This has risen now to about 9,000, Felix confirmed.
This does not include the Guyanese who have returned from Venezuela, after living there for years.
Meanwhile, during the press conference at his office last week, the Minister defended a meeting at Critchlow Labour College with Haitians who he said complained about treatment by his staffers and delays in the processing of documents.
He said that it was not wise holding the meeting at his office, at Shiv Chanderpaul Drive as the persons being accused would have been present.
Felix also slammed a TV newscast, which he said reported on the Haitian meeting and claimed that he had offered citizenship in exchange for votes.
This was “completely false and libellous”.
The Minister, at the press conference, said he has since lodged complaints with the relevant authorities and is seeking legal advice, with the view of filing a libel suit.
The newscast headlined the story as “The PNC plans got busted”. The report claimed that a promise was made to a man involved in an alleged fake marriage scam that an ongoing police investigation will be discontinued.
Minister Felix asserted that these statements are patently false and that they were “designed to tarnish the good image and reputation of the APNU/AFC Government”. He also noted that no efforts were made to contact him to verify the claims prior to the broadcast, instead the publishers of the newscast aired a report that was devoid of facts.
As such, Minister Felix asserted that the false report should be withdrawn and an apology issued.
Explaining how he came to meet with the group of African nationals, Minister Felix said that the Deputy Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Mr. Aubrey Heath-Retemyer whom he has known since the early 1980s, informed him that there were some African nationals “who have issues with the staff downstairs in my Department”.
The SARA official had insisted that he had attended the meeting in his personal capacity.
Minister Felix added that he felt comfortable with the foreigners visiting the office “after the matter was trashed out and I was sure about what I’m dealing with. At that [earlier] stage, I was not sure what I was dealing with”.
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