Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, is once again denying allegations that the government is operating a people smuggling ring involving Haitians.
Felix, in an interview with the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency, said that his ministry has been collaborating with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and checks have been made, which to date, have found no evidence to indicate even a single instance of people smuggling or Trafficking in Persons (TIP), relative to the Haitian travellers.
As a matter of fact, he said, the Force, since 2014, has not found a single case of Haitians being victims of either of the alleged crimes.
“In effect, the Department has been working with the police on each report of trafficking in persons and this has been so since 2015. For 2019, the police encountered 18 cases of TIP, 13 persons were charged and 7 cases were brought before the Courts. The police, who have been working on TIP since 2014 has never encountered a Haitian who is victim of TIP and similarly, they have not charged any Haitian with relation to TIP and that is instructive as to the nature of the Haitians presence in Guyana. They are not victims of trafficking nor have we encountered them smuggled into any territory or Guyana,” the Minister noted.
Minister Felix strongly encourages members of the public who have knowledge of either crime being committed to report it to the police.
“People must stop trying to ensnare officials of the government with irregular acts of planning to register Haitians to vote in this country. I am inviting the public at large to come forward and make reports if you have any information on any Haitian being smuggled or a victim of TIP or anyone perpetrating that offence. Please feel free to report to the police,” Minister Felix urged.
The former Commissioner of Police’s statements at a time when the nation is experiencing an influx of Haitian nationals, which some sections of society contend is not coincidental. The Parliamentary Opposition, the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), has raised concerns of this occurrence; claiming that the nationals are being “smuggled” into the country by the David Granger-led Administration to pad the electoral list with government-desired people to give the governing party an advantage at the upcoming regional and general elections.
The PPP/C’s claim has faced harsh criticisms over the last couple of days from several factions of society who are of the view that Haitians are being targeted, given the fact that the number of Haitians is relatively small to other nationals that came to Guyana.
The opposition continues to defend its claim, while the government maintains that Guyana is merely being used as a gateway by Haitians who are seeking “greener pastures”.
Meanwhile, social media platforms – primarily Facebook – continue to be used by citizens, both local and abroad, to ventilate their thoughts on the matter, which often results in heated debates and exchange of racial slurs.