Guyanese Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn has dashed any lingering hope that 34 Haitians stranded in Barbados might find refuge in the South American country.
Furthermore, Benn declared that the documents used by the Haitians to enter Barbados with assistance from a Barbados-based travel agency are “fake”.
He said that contrary to promises made to the Haitians prior to their arrival in Barbados and during their frustrating ordeal here, Guyana had not been approached by anyone on their behalf.
“We will not,” Benn told the local online media house Demerara Waves, when asked if his government was considering granting visas for the group reportedly bound for Guyana and Brazil.
“We have not been approached so far by anyone who is representing them directly. Their bona fides we have seen are fake. There are ID cards for Brazil which are not legal and there are also other documents which we have seen which are fake,” the Guyana home affairs minister added.
Benn said his office was working with Barbadian authorities on other aspects of “this activity” which “has been going on for a while”. He did not provide any additional details on the “ongoing” activity to which he referred.
The group of CARICOM nationals arrived here from Port-au-Prince on February 20 and they have reportedly endured a tough time in Barbados almost entirely at the mercy of an agency called MPH.
Some of the Haitians said they paid upward of US $4,000 to make the journey, based on promises made to them by officials associated with the MPH who are based in Haiti.
Noelson Dossous, a 19-year-old who is among the homeless youth, demanded a full refund.
“They took our money totalling US$4 500,” Dossous told Barbados TODAY.
“They took it in Haiti. They came and dropped us here, dropped off our suitcases and left us here. They have dropped us here like dogs on the street, like people who have no guardians,” said the teen.
The group was initially supposed to spend no more than 15 days in Barbados before being moved to Guyana or Brazil.
On Tuesday, they were evicted from apartments at Wanstead Gardens St James by a landlord who had reportedly previously received more than BBD $23,000 to house them.
There are at least eight minors in the contingent as well as a pregnant woman. On Tuesday evening, the group was seen lugging suitcases, duffle bags and other belongings through the suburban community.
Sources close to the situation said the Haitians are now staying in small groups at properties scattered across the island with assistance from the Haitian Association of Barbados.
Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, said Immigration officials were treating the Haitians as a group of CARICOM nationals who are in the country on a six-month stay.
Co-director of the Haitian Association of Barbados, Pearlie Drakes, stressed that the group was fleeing social, political and economic turmoil in Haiti and called for provisions to be made for them to work and live in Barbados.
“I am convinced that they can contribute to the Barbadian society and economy and it is on that basis largely that I would suggest that the officials look at how best we can incorporate these people. I don’t think sending them back to Haiti with the difficulties that persist there now… would make any sense,” said Drakes.