Guyana seeks clarification on immigration policy

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Government is investigating reports that the passports of a number of Guyanese children have been seized by the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda.

“We have had reports that the authorities in Antigua are at this point in time retaining the passports of children traveling with their parents,” said Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett. “Certainly the Guyanese passports are the property of the Guyana government and so we have written to them because we need to know what the policy is.”

During the last Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit, held in Guyana in July, the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados complained that they were overwhelmed by Caribbean nationals who were coming to their countries in search of jobs.

The communiqué issued at the end of the summit said the regional governments re-affirmed the goal of free movement of persons as expressed in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and that free movement is an essential element of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The leaders acknowledged that, given the current global economic and financial crisis, the full implementation of the CSME will be challenging for some member states.

In addition, the leaders “agreed on the importance of training and sensitizing immigration officers on the implementation of the region’s approach to free movement and hassle free travel”.

Rodrigues-Burkett said the treatment of Guyanese nationals residing in Barbados has improved significantly following the Barbadian government’s announcement in May of a six-month amnesty for CARICOM nationals who have been living in Barbados illegally.

As of June 1, 2009 all undocumented CARICOM nationals who entered Barbados prior to December 31, 2005 and remained undocumented for eight years or more, are required to have their status regularized.

“I think we should not underestimate the impact of the discussions on this issue both in the media and discussions that were held by our heads of government and I think that certainly would have resulted in what we are seeing now. I think it’s an improvement in what we saw in the earlier period,” Rodrigues-Birkett said, warning Guyanese nationals that only certain categories of workers, who are able to obtain the necessary documents, could move freely across the region.

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