Visa requirement for Haitians is not a travel ban – Minister Benn

Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn says the decision by the Government to quash visa-free travel for Haitians is not a ban, but rather an effort to eliminate human trafficking and smuggling here.

The Minister made this statement while appearing as a guest on a programme aired on Facebook, alongside Member of Parliament, Hon. Sanjeev Datadin.

Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn

Minister Benn said the Government took the decision because Haitians and other nationals have been using Guyana as a transit point to illegally migrate to other countries.

He explained that many Haitians use the Lethem trail to access Brazil and other parts of South America and Central America.  The Minister said the Government has to ensure that persons entering Guyana are doing so to the benefit of the country.

“We want people to come here and work with us to help develop the country, to regenerate, reinvigorate our cultural and ethnic mix, but we cannot be having people coming to our country, leaving almost immediately and creating problems in terms of the Administration, law and order….

We have to take the responsible position as a country to deal with this matter. We cannot ethically and morally be involved in the trafficking and smuggling of people in the 21st century.”

Consequently, Minister Benn said the Government is bound by the agreements it has made with the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international bodies on taking a stance against human trafficking and smuggling.

“If we allow people to continue to come through in this way, we would be participating in what is clearly an illegal, criminal activity allowing people into slavery, allowing people into degrading inhumane conditions,” he explained.

MP Datadin also voiced his support of the Administration’s position on the issue. He said the visa requirement for Haitians would allow Guyana to be more accountable to the international community, while receiving the best for the nation.

“A visa doesn’t mean that you are not allowing Haitians to come. It just means that… we would be able to welcome those who want to come to Guyana for the purposes of being in Guyana and participating in the development of Guyana… This is a global problem. This is a bigger problem than simply Guyana, but Guyana must do its part.”

Just last week, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall said the Administration’s actions were necessary to prevent possible sanctions for enabling an environment for Trafficking in Persons.

The AG said between 2015 and 2021, though 42,100 Haitians legally entered Guyana, only 3,913 legally departed, resulting in no immigration account for 38,187 people. He also relayed that Guyana is not alone in imposing this requirement, noting that CARICOM countries Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Belize, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica have done the same.

On June 22, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali revoked Immigration Order 2019 signed by former President David Granger which granted Haitians visa-free travel to Guyana.