Guyana needs an enlightened immigration policy – commentary

Guyana needs an enlightened immigration policy

Guyana needs to improve its immigration policies. Persons coming into Guyana do not feel welcome. They are made to feel that the country is doing them a favour by allowing them in. Guyana needs a friendly environment for its visitors.

The faces of our immigration officers are not very friendly. Sometimes they make you have second thoughts about coming to Guyana. But their job is difficult and the pay is poor, and therefore the service tends, generally, to be lousy.  

They are among the first faces that visitors see when they come here. They need to smile a little more. They can be professional and nice at the same time.
Visitors need a better welcome when they come to Guyana. They should be facilitated rather than subjected to all manner of archaic rules. Guyana should not be deporting as many persons as it does. Who wants to come and live here illegally?

The irony is that Guyanese have been going to other places and overstaying. There are thousands of illegal Guyanese living in the Caribbean, and many more living in Europe and North America.

Guyanese know what it feels like to be an immigrant, and this is why it is so painful to see how some foreigners, who would have overstayed their time in Guyana or not reported to the nearest port of entry upon their arrival, are treated – hauled before the courts, given a conviction on their name and then deported.

We should not be treating visitors to this country with such humiliation. Guyanese have known the pain of having a special bench in Barbados allocated for them; of being grilled about ‘show money’, seeing their names checked against a long list of undesirables and, in many instances, being out on the next plane out.

Guyana should be more welcoming to foreigners. Right now it is the Cubans who are ensuring that there is growth within the commercial sector. They are buying goods here, rolling them up into bundles and taking them back home. Without the Cubans, the commercial sector would slow appreciably.

Cubans have been good to Guyana. They have been the kindest nation to Guyana, even more kind than the Chinese. The Americans, British and Canadians are treated better. Yet, all they are after is our resources. The Cubans have given us more than we have given them. Yet we treat visitors from the ABC countries better.

Look how the Cubans are treated at our airports. No attempt is being made to ensure their comfort. They are made to congest in the area in front of the departure lounge. Better can and should be done to facilitate these entrepreneurs. They are keeping our economy afloat. They should therefore not be treated as second-class travellers.

Guyanese used to be treated this way. They used to have to sleep at the airports. They too were looked down on. Guyanese should not be repeating this with the Cubans.

A more enlightened immigration policy is needed. Travel should be simplified. Persons from the Caribbean should be able to come here without the need for a passport and without being asked to show a return ticket or ‘show money’.

This nonsense about ‘show money’ can be used to extort bribes from travellers. We are living in the electronic age. People do not need to walk with cash. They do not need money here. Everything can be done through electronic transactions or through credit purchases. We should not be asking anybody about ‘show money’.

There are some airlines who still insist that if you are travelling on a Guyanese passport, you need to have a return ticket before they will allow you on the flight, because they are fearful of you being deported and sent back on their plane. The leaders of the Caribbean Community need to put an end to this practice, which is based on the position that if you have a return ticket, you are less likely to remain in the country beyond the six months which is allotted to you.

A return ticket is no guarantee that someone will not remain in your country. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants in the United States went to that country from Guyana with a return ticket. It is a small price to pay for the opportunity to turn a holiday into a ‘holistay’.

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  • David Dee  On 12/10/2017 at 11:50 pm

    Great article. I am only surprised that you didn’t mention how Guyana recently imposed Visa Requirements for Cubans who previously didn’t need a Visitor’s Visa as recently as 2016 to come to Guyana.

  • Valery  On 12/13/2017 at 2:58 am

    I am so happy to read this article and I agree completely. Not too long ago I arrived from a neighbouring country to visit Guyana.
    I was absolutely appalled at the unwelcome and distasteful mannerism of the Guyanese immigration/custom officials. These men lack social skills and are inapt to be dealing with foreign nationals. I inadvertently stood in the line that says non- nationals, totally forgetting that I have a Caricom passport therefore I am in the wrong line. I had two passports in my hand, one from my daughter, who is indeed not a Caricom citizen and mine.
    I saw the official in charge giving me strange looks but I did not understand why. In the meantime the line from non- nationalist was moving quickly and as I was next in line to go to the counter, the official in charge jumped in front if me ask to see the passports and pointed to me that I should go to the other line. But my daughter can proceed to the counter. He never opened his mouth just used his index finger to point. I still did not understand why and proceeded to ask him. To my astonishment this man rudely said, have you heard off Caricom go in the other line.
    Mind you the other line by now is still winding around the corner outside the building. The thing is this man watched me from the start knew that I was standing in the wrong queue, but wanted to have more impact to show his authority, I went from first in line to the last in line. Behind me there was no one.
    The non-national counter was then closed and there was only one agent attending the national line. My question is: what are the qualifications of these men and women in the Guyanese immigration/customs service. Are they being trained. Do they have customer skills. My experience was clearly with someone in charge, he was an older man, probably being a custom official for years.
    My stay was just a few days in Guyana and upon our return, he made sure to hang around in our close vicinity to be seen and exert his power. It is sad though that upon entering a foreign country one encounters such distasteful, crude and unhappy people. Yes, Guyanese custom officials are extremely rude and unappealing. Their attitude is one that conveys, the question of: why are you here? I, myself do not want to be in Guyana. We have nothing to offer you. What a way of representing your country.

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