Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenridge today said “backtrack travelling” is responsible for the absence of official departure records for thousands of foreign nationals who entered the country legally.
Mr. Greenidge was responding to concerns raised at the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it was revealed that over 17,000 Cubans and 5000 Haitians who entered Guyana between 2013 and April 2018 are unaccounted for.
“What I can say about the Haitians is that we know that many of them land here and they are on their way to French Guiana.”
The Minister Opposition Members in the Committee are being “melodramatic”, when it comes to the issue. He told reporters that there is a situation where Guyana has never monitored properly this type of movement.
“You know backtrack? Do I have to tell you that?”
He explained that once persons entering Guyana avail themselves to leave the country through illegal ports then it is clearly understood why there are disparity in the number of persons entering and leaving.
Greendige rejected assertion by Chair of the Committee and Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira that these persons could very well be part of a major human trafficking ring.
“I don’t know how the Committee could have arrived at the conclusion that there are hundreds of Haitians coming here and hiding somewhere, where are they?”
Greenidge said there is need for a mature discussion on the matter.
“You have in this entire region an unusual amount of movement what you might call irregular migration and over the years all there has been movement of Haitians and Cubans in recent times.”
According to a letter sent to the Committee by Citizenship Minister Winston Felix, in the case of the Haitians, the figures spiked in 2017 and 2018 with 3515 arriving and 291 departing through legal ports and 1238 arriving and 85 departing, respectively.
Meanwhile, 44,000 Cubans arrived in Guyana in 2017 but only 37,000 left through legal ports.
But the Foreign Minister said he is personally not aware of any dramatic increase in Cubans arriving in Guyana.
Asked about he government’s plan to address the situation, Greenidge said once the government knows the exact extent of backtrack travelling then it could stop the illegal movement across borders.
“You can’t stop that because they are leaving from registered ports and other places and if you put every Guyanese every other mile along our borders you still wouldn’t be able to stop people coming in and leaving unregulated.”
The Minister said it is one of the challenge of having a small population and large borders. He said no one in government can promise that they will be able to stop the illegal flow of people.
“We have no means of monitoring all the instances from Guyana, people have escaped from Guyana over the years and this is part and parcel of having long borders and a small population.”