The 26 visiting Haitian nationals who have been placed in protective custody by the Police are demanding that they be released as they were not victims of any human trafficking or smuggling ring.
The Haitians were taken into protective custody last week and transferred to the Hugo Chavez Centre in Berbice. In a video released by the group to News Source today, a spokesman denied outright that they were victims of any smuggling or trafficking ring.
They explained that they arrived in Guyana on a Caribbean Airlines flight from Barbados and were admitted entry by Immigration without any issue. The spokesperson detailed that 13 of them were staying at a city hotel when the hotel was invaded by Police officers who took them all into custody.
The other 13 who were taken into custody were held in Linden as they were about to check in at a hotel there before their onward road trip to Lethem and then over to Brazil.
“We all came legally in the country and we have our passports and our return tickets and we got our passports stamped from immigration so now when we were going to Linden to go to Joseph Apartment, we had a situation where the Police they just came to us and some of us were at the hotel and they just went to the hotel and took all of us and now we are in a very bad situation”, the spokesman said.
The man reminded that like Guyana, Haiti is also a member of CARICOM and the CARICOM treaty allows for free movement in member states. He also noted that they were given up to 3 and six months to stay in Guyana upon their arrival, so they are finding the accusations of smuggling and trafficking difficult to understand.
“We are humans and we are part of the CARICOM, so we can come to this country and be in this country for three months and even six months but we were not going to stay out that time because we come here to make business and do tourism and go shopping and we get someone from here in Guyana to help us out. We got all the service that we paid for and now we have this kind of situation where we get treated like animals”, the man said.
He also complained that they have not been getting any information from anyone, but said they have been following reports in the local press about their situation.
In a statement late last week, the Home Affairs Ministry announced the arrest of a number of persons as part of an investigation into allegations of human trafficking and smuggling. The locals who were arrested have since been released without any charges.
The Ministry has refused to release additional details on the issue, but senior sources in the Guyana Police Force have confirmed to News Source that all of the documents of the Haitian nationals are in order.
For a number of years, Haitian nationals have been traveling to Guyana to make their way over to Brazil to take up farming and other jobs there.