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News from Haiti:

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Haitians flocking to Guyana to get to French Guiana and beyond via Suriname
Published on May 31, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version


By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Since the government of Suriname abruptly closed its consulate in Port-au- Prince for fear of “security” after it halted the visa free entrance of Haitians to Suriname, Guyana is now the destination of choice for Haitians looking to get to French Guiana, the USA and beyond.

The government of Suriname had to bow to pressure from the EU and in particular France, to impose visa requirements on Haitians travelling to Suriname. As a result, Guyana is now being used as a hub for Haitians to get to their ultimate destination, French Guiana, a European Union (EU) territory that is already dealing with economic and social upheavals.

On Friday, Guyanese authorities arrested a number of Surinamese involved in the smuggling of 27 Haitians, including 12 children, at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) who were on their way to French Guiana via Suriname. They arrived in Guyana on a Copa Airlines flight from Haiti via Panama, and no one was at the airport to meet them.

According to Guyana’s Kaieteur News, the police believe that the smugglers, after realizing that the investigators were onto them, did not show up at the airport.

“No one wants to take responsibility now because we don’t have anywhere to put these people and they have arrived here legally,” a policeman told Kaieteur News.

From Guyana, it is very easy to get to Suriname illegally through the “backtrack” without the need of a passport. It's a breeding ground for crime, human trafficking, drugs, weapons, and pirating. The two countries have been examining ways and means of policing the illegal “backtrack”crossing via the Courantyne River that separates the two countries.

The international human trafficking network is complex and includes law enforcement officials from a number of countries like Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, the US and Brazil. Suriname seems to have little capacity to address the problem properly, and Guyana is more successful in dealing with human trafficking, according to the De Ware Tijd News on Monday.

It seems that the ringleaders involved in trafficking the Haitians made reservations at two major hotels in Guyana but when checks were made by the police, it was discovered that reservations were cancelled on the same day they were made.

In Guyana on Friday, the police arrested a Haitian medical student at his residence after it was confirmed that he is a part of the human trafficking ring.

According to Kaieteur News, the police had been monitoring the medical student for some time and made the arrest after receiving sufficient facts. While on surveillance, the cops found out that the medical student had been receiving large sums of money from Haiti. The police believed that the suspect’s main income was cash he received from traffickers.

Guyana may soon find itself forced, like Suriname, to reimpose visa requirements on Haitians travellers to Guyana. At one point, the government welcomed Haitians to Guyana as “tourists”. The government of Guyana will now come under EU and US pressure to stem the flow of Haitians into French Guiana, the US and beyond.

Earlier, in March this year, more than 150 Haitians arrived in Guyana via a chartered aircraft, but minister of citizenship and immigration of Guyana, Winston Felix, told Demerara Waves that he is not worried.

“We did not have any issues with their bona fides, we saw nothing wrong. To me everything appeared very normal,” Felix told Demerara Waves. They were given one month’s stay in Guyana. He told the publication that Haitians are free to travel to neighbouring Suriname if they so desire and have the required visa.

“They didn’t come to Guyana to stick in Guyana,” he added.

He is absolutely correct, Haitians are not looking to “stick in Guyana”.

French and Surinamese authorities met in early May to strengthen cooperation on justice and security matters. At that meeting, Suriname “confirmed its intention to ratify the agreements on readmission and police cooperation already concluded several years ago. Such ratifications are important because they should facilitate the establishment of a Police Cooperation Center in Saint-Laurent du Maroni,” the frontier between Suriname and French Guiana.

The two countries agreed to “accelerate the conclusion of a mutual legal assistance agreement. The entire Guiana plateau is facing the same security challenges; we applaud this reaffirmed desire to face them together.”
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