Haitian association calls for probe – Barbados Today

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The Haitian Association of Barbados is calling for an investigation into the “very questionable” circumstances under which a group of 34 Haitians, who have found themselves in difficulties, were allowed to enter Barbados.
Attorney-at-Law Pearlie Drakes, one of the directors of the association, explained that the case of the Haitians who were being moved through Barbados en route to Guyana and Brazil have led to more questions than answers about the country’s border practices.
“I would expect that, in due course, there will be a proper investigation as to how they got here in the first place. What were the plans for them? Who was responsible and those kinds of things? The immigration authorities have a responsibility to answer those kinds of issues and not just try to determine whether to put them on a plane and send them back to Haiti,” Drake told Barbados TODAY.
The association’s calls have been magnified by a declaration from Guyana’s Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn that the documents upon which the Haitians were seeking entry into that country were “fake”.
In a recent interview, Drakes called for transparency from authorities about the nature of the agreement between the group of visitors and an agency called MPH, which allegedly took US$4 500 from each of the Haitians and promised to cover all expenses between Port-au-Prince and South America.
The lawyer said it would have been unusual of immigration officials to grant the Haitians entry into Barbados if they could not show proof of onward travel in the form of plane tickets, visas, and other prerequisite travel documents. He added that even in the case of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens, who are generally entitled to an automatic six-month stay, the ability to sustain oneself financially is often a prerequisite.
“So, the six months is not the basis upon which they enter. [Authorities] must be satisfied that they can be here and that they are able to maintain themselves while they are here, that they would not become a ward of the state, and that if they were supposed to have onward travel to somewhere, that all of those arrangements were in place even before they entered Barbados,” Drakes told Barbados TODAY.
“How did they actually get into Barbados if all of that was not finalised and the immigration authorities were not satisfied that they had all the necessary paperwork that is required to allow them to come into Barbados in the first instance? How did they get into Barbados without all of that information being made available and that the necessary laws in Barbados were followed as they normally would be?” the Haitian association spokesman added.
Even more peculiar for the association is the fact that on numerous occasions, they have been met with red tape when seeking assistance from Immigration with matters relating to Haitians.
“As an association, we have sought visas through the Immigration Department and it has been difficult, and therefore it is very questionable as to how 34 –and I am also hearing many more – have been able to enter Barbados under very strange circumstances. It is something that needs proper investigation,” said Drakes.
“I have sought to work with the Immigration Department and to be honest with you, have not been happy with some of the responses that we have gotten. That is why I am questioning why a large group can come in and have that kind of entry into Barbados with so many questions hanging over the procedures that were taken.
The 34 Haitians were staying at an apartment in Wanstead Gardens, St James, from February 20 when they arrived in Barbados until last week, when they were evicted by the landlord, who had reportedly received more than $23 000 in rent from the travel agency.
Barbados’ Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams has not issued a statement on the Haitians since late March when he visited the property at Wanstead to verify that they were not being held there against their will.
However, his Guyanese counterpart has made it clear that the group would not be given visas to enter Guyana, as he alluded that the incident was not isolated.
Meanwhile, the Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey said the children who were among the evicted were being housed by members of the local Haitian community.
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