Dear Editor,

I write to ask what crime has been committed by the Haitians who are being detained against their will by the government of Guyana and threatened with deportation. The travel documents of these persons are all in order and they have not committed any crime. As citizens of a Caribbean nation which is part of CARICOM, they are legally entitled to travel to Guyana and have the right to be here for up to six months.

Holding these Haitians in a government shelter and removing Haitian children from the presence of familiar and caring adults and placing them in the custody of people who cannot speak to them in their language or meet their emotional or cultural needs is in fact abusive and a violation of their rights.

The pseudo-concern by the authorities about smuggling and human trafficking clearly holds no weight; if it did, the persons who were initially arrested would not have been released without being charged.  These Haitians were funding their own travel and hotel accommodations; they did not approach the Guyanese officials for any assistance, nor were they found to be in any danger.

Either the Guyanese authorities don’t understand what trafficking in persons really means (or they have some quota that they have to meet to satisfy some foreign master), OR they are simply using the notion and language of trafficking to target and discriminate against Haitian travelers to Guyana.

The fact is that there are people from many other countries in Guyana – some legally but many illegally (who are sometimes really being exploited) – who never get the level of official attention that Haitian travelers seem to regularly attract. So why the disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of Haitians?

I call on the authorities to immediately release these Haitians – including the children – from the government facility where they are being detained against their will, and to allow them to go about their business without further persecution. This will also free up officials to investigate all the other *real* cases of migrant abuse that are regularly occurring in Guyana – in the mining backdams, in the shops along Regent Street, in the bars and clubs that are still operating, etc, etc.

Yours faithfully,

Sherlina Nageer

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