Letter to the Editor: “Discriminatory and racist behavior developed by the Guyanese authorities against Haitian migrants”

The Editor

The Curaçao Chronicle team

May 27, 2012

Dear Editor,

We are unfortunately witnessing discriminatory and racist behavior developed by the Guyanese authorities against Haitian migrants who recently landed in Guyana. Haitian migrants are targeted and are “welcomed” in Georgetown by detention and imprisonment. While other nationalities who are deported are fined a kind of ransom in exchange for their freedom, Haitians would actually consider that to be a luxury, as their ransom is not only double, but they are ransomed to be imprisoned for a year followed by deportation. This situation concerns me for three (3) reasons:

Firstly, I am a citizen of the world, a world which is globalized through the economy which promotes the exchange of products and information only for the benefit of imperialist countries, an unfair process which rather ensures the collapse of the underdeveloped countries of the continents but does not prioritize the free movement of people.

Secondly, I come from a country inhabited by men and women proud of their history, Haiti, the first black republic in the world. This land is inhabited by a people responsible for the most definitive revolution in the relationship between European enslavers and Africans reduced to slavery, when between the years 1791 and 1804 the enslaved Africans overthrew their masters after the Battle of Vertières between the French army of Napoleon and the native army led by Dessalines.

Thirdly, my two children Maudalissa and Marshall Methelus from Haiti suffered victimization by the Guyana Immigration Authorities and a month's imprisonment in Georgetown last November. Anita Catule, a 65-year-old Haitian compatriot, who arrived on the same flight as my children, victim of the same fate, was imprisoned for a month in difficult conditions with insensitivity to her fragile health, and died less than a week after her release.

I don’t know if the authorities in Guyana realise it or not, but by universal and regional standards, the targeting and detention of Haitian travelers in Guyana is racist and discriminatory and violates their human rights. It is unimaginable and unacceptable that the sons and daughters of the precursors of black freedom are treated in this way in the region. Haiti is the first land in this region which, through the voice of these first leaders, and supported by the Haitian people advocated freedom and protection for everyone of all races. My question to you, my brothers and sisters from Guyana is: How do you imagine yourself free if Haiti is not free? Today, the children of Haiti are now scattered by the cruelest winds that often pick them up and drop them off at the doors of other Africans who have little knowledge of their own history and therefore do not recognize their own brothers and sisters.

On the issue of the 26 Haitians, including 7 children, among them mine, who were cruelly detained on their arrival in Guyana in November 2020; on the issue of Jeannette Jean and Wilbert Freemont who were sentenced in March 2021 to one year in prison and a fine of $ 30,000 each; on the issue of Haitians who are repeatedly turned away at the airport upon their arrival, our small Haitian support group has decided to approach the Caribbean Court of Justice and directly press CARICOM for a new political, economic and moral order.

Recently we learned that all Haitians now have the right to apply for the CARICOM passport. Yes, this is a step in the right direction. But that should not lead us to stop the struggle, perhaps to rest, but not to stop. I invite you all to dig deep into your psychic resources to help us speak with one voice at the CCJ and end forever this debilitating attitude of elites calling themselves the leaders of the Caribbean Community who have us shown decade after decade that they are only interested in recreating the structures of oppression built by their former slave masters. Let us pull together a Pan Caribbean think tank from the ground up to talk about what the economic structures of a real Caribbean civilization would be.

What crime has been committed by Haitians who are being held against their will by the Guyanese government and threatened with deportation? The travel documents of these people are all in order. As citizens of a Caribbean nation that is part of CARICOM, they are legally allowed to travel to Guyana and have the right to stay there for up to six months.

The authorities' pseudo-concern about human smuggling and trafficking obviously holds no weight. If this were the case, those initially arrested would not have been released without being charged. Holding these Haitians in a government shelter and removing Haitian children from the presence of families and caring adults and placing them in the care 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.

These Haitians financed their own travel and hotel accommodation. They did not turn to Guyanese officials for help and were not found to be in danger. Either the Guyanese authorities do not understand what human trafficking really means (or they have a quota that they must meet to satisfy a foreign captain), or they simply use the notion and language of trafficking to target and discriminate against them.

The point is, there are people from many other countries in Guyana - some legally entered but many illegally (who are sometimes really exploited) who never get the level of negative official attention that Haitian travelers seem to get on a regular basis.

So why the disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of Haitians? I call on the Guyanese authorities to stop this persecution of my people, including our children, and to give them equal treatment as all other CARICOM citizens at your airports, and to allow them to have freedom of movement to go about their business as humans equal to all others.

Mondy Methelus

Paris France


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