By Svetlana Marshall – guyana chronicle August 4, 2019
…Guyanese urged to condemn ‘racist’ attacks on Haitians
…Haitians entitled to automatic six-month stay in CARICOM countries
POLITICAL Scientist Dr David Hinds said Haitians like Guyanese are entitled to free movement in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), even as he called on all of Guyana to denounce the racist attacks on the French-speaking nationals by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Though thousands of nationals from various countries travel to Guyana on a monthly basis, in recent days Haitians have been singled out. On Wednesday, the nation’s attention was drawn to the fact that more than 8,400 Haitians had travelled to Guyana over the last seven months. However, little or no focus was placed on the other 128,000 plus nationals that came to the country during the very period. The Opposition – the PPP/C – has called for an investigation into the “influx” of Haitians here, with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo saying that an urgent investigation ought to be launched into the Immigration Department and the General Registration Office (GRO).
In condemning the attacks on the Haitians, Dr Hinds stressed that Haitians under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) are entitled to travel to Guyana. “Haiti is part of CARICOM, and Haitians, therefore, have a right to free movement in the CARICOM Region,” he told the Guyana Chronicle in a recent interview.
According to the CARICOM Secretariat, free movement of people is an essential factor for the union – explaining that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME abolished discrimination on grounds of nationality in all member states. “Under the CSME, the free movement of persons across the Region entails the removal of work permits for University Graduates, Media Workers, Sports Persons, Musicians, Artists, Managers, Supervisors and other service providers. With the CSME, these persons will be able to travel to member states with only a travel permit and, in some cases, an Inter-Caribbean Travel document complete with photograph…Workers in these categories can now move freely to another member state and enjoy the same benefits and rights as regards condition of work and employment as those given to national workers,” CARICOM stated on its website. Last July, CARICOM Heads of Government at their 39th Summit in Jamaica, passed an Immigration Order to allow Haitians an automatic six-month stay in all CARICOM member states.
Dr Hinds said what is evident is that the PPP/C is racially profiling Haitians and linking them to the government and the pending elections. This, he said, is a racist attack against Haitians, and adoption of a pattern that has shown its ugly face in other parts of the Region, and the world at large. “We are seeing in other Caribbean countries, whenever Haitians show up, some sections of those societies become very vocal about Haitians in a way that they are not vocal about other nationals,” the political scientist noted. He said history would show that some countries sent back Haitians to their homeland while keeping other nationals such as Cubans. In recent years, thousands of asylum seekers from Haiti have been denied entry to the United States, and have been forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
“In The Dominican Republic, we know that Haitians born in [The] Dominican Republic have been sent back to Haiti. So what the PPP is doing is in keeping with that anti-Haitian racism that we see in parts of our Region,” Dr. Hinds reasoned.
Urging all of Guyana to denounce this attack, Hinds said an attack on Haitians, is an attack on ‘Blackness,’ and that should be condemned. “It is also very disrespectful to Haitians who, as we know, were the first people to overthrow slavery with the Haitian Revolution, and they have paid an enormous price for doing that, for showing the rest of the black world how to overcome slavery,” he added.
He said therefore it is very disrespectful for the PPP/C to single out Haitians. The attacks, he further pointed out, comes at a time when the country is celebrating Emancipation, noting that it is sad that the PPP/C has resorted to anti-Haitian racism in its quest for power.
“It points to the desperation of the PPP. I think the PPP is desperate that they are likely to lose the coming elections and are now engaging in that kind of wanton racism. I think all Guyana, including East Indians, who themselves are immigrants of Guyana, all of us, except the Amerindians are immigrants, and all Guyanese, especially East Indians, should push back against those PPP attacks, because as I said it is an attack not only on Haitians, and not only on blackness, but an attack on people who are migrating from one country to the other,” Dr Hinds said.
Guyanese, he posited, have migrated to other shores, many in search of work and a better standard of living. “PPP supporters are part of the migrant population moving from Guyana to other countries, and we are very vocal when Guyanese are being profiled in other Caribbean countries, and so we ought to raise our voices against what the PPP is doing, and its supporters, especially, needs to push back against their party,” he reasoned.
International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G) Chairman Vincent Alexander told this newspaper that the singling out of Haitians is an attempt by the PPP/C to create hysteria among its supporters in the lead-up to elections.
“It is highly racist, and the racism is underlined by the fact of the disrespect for people of African descent,” Alexander said. He noted that while the attacks are racist in nature, they are politically motivated. While some Haitians travel to Guyana in search of a better life, others use the country as a transit point, and this is nothing new or unique to Haitians, Alexander said.
“There are other groups that have done that. We have had people from India, who have used Guyana as a transit point; we have had high-level qualified people come to the University of Guyana, for example, but the intention really is not to stay, it is to move onto the United States. This is a phenomenon that is not Guyana-specific, this is a phenomenon that is known internationally,” he explained.
He went a step further, and dubbed some of the recent reports as products of irresponsible journalists, nothing that reporters were not “highly investigative and objective.”
Like Dr Hinds, Alexander said Guyanese must be cognisant of the role Haiti has played in emancipation through the Haitian Revolution. “No country in the world has paid the price Haiti has paid for its emancipation,” he posited, noting that the Region should be very sympathetic to people from Haiti.
FOR the first seven months of 2019, Cuban nationals entering Guyana have outnumbered other regional travellers, including Haitians, by several thousand. There has been much debate regarding the arrival figures of nationals of the sister Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country of Haiti in other sections of the media as members of the public have criticised the xenophobic focus placed on the French–speaking nationals by those media houses.
While emphasis is placed on Haitians, the statistics tell a different story. Stats released by the Department of Citizenship revealed that for the first seven months of this year, a total of 41,272 Cuban nationals came to Guyana via the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), outnumbering by almost 33,000 the 8,476 Haitians who did.
For each of the months between March and June this year, an average of 6,338 Cubans came to Guyana via the CJIA, and according to the statistics, during that same period, the figure for Haitian nationals fluctuated, with the highest recorded being 2,008 for the month of May.
Overall, during the seven-month period, 45,944 Americans travelled to Guyana in addition to 2,980 Barbadians; 5,048 Brazilians; 2,548 British; 12,259 Canadians; 1,995 Chinese; 41,272 Cubans; 8476 Haitians; 679 Indians; 2,900 Surinamese; and 11, 119 Trinidadians – a total of 135,220.