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Over one hundred Guyanese awaiting deportation, but government won’t finance their return

By Andrea Fernandes Guyana Guardian From Caribbean News Now

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Dozens of Guyanese who are stuck in prisons abroad, particularly in Trinidad, Barbados, St Maarten, and across the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), are pleading with the Guyana government to help them in their quest to return home.

Their pleas were made on the basis that the immigration authorities in either country are unable to send them back to Guyana since they (the prisoners) cannot self-fund the cost of their repatriation, while the holding state has since ruled out doing so.

In at least one letter to the Guyana Guardian in June this year, several Guyanese who are currently incarcerated in Trinidad and Tobago are contending that they have been languishing in jail for several months simply because the cost for their return is not being paid for by their families or the government of Guyana.

As a result, they would have to remain in prison until someone can purchase their respective tickets.

Many are contending that their families back in Guyana are poor, while others claimed (in the bundled correspondence) that since they are somewhat detached, family members in Guyana do not have any interest in them.

While indicating that they are good citizens, they are urging the Guyana government to establish a system where the state can pay soonest for their return; and they will, in turn, work in Guyana to pay back the government for the tickets.

At the same time, they were quick to point out that many of the Guyanese diplomatic missions abroad are slothful and are sometimes non-responsive to the interest of imprisoned Guyanese citizens abroad.

But according to a source at the immigration department in Trinidad, many of the Guyanese nationals are in jail for immigration breaches such as overstaying their time etc, while others are stuck in the penal system because their return airline tickets have expired long before they would have completed their respective sentences for more serious offenses.

The source lamented that in such a case, they would have to either get a new airline ticket so that they can be sent back to Guyana, or they will have to stay in prison until that can be addressed.

“In such a case we cannot just put them back into the streets, neither can the state afford to fund the dozens of deportations that are required for nationals from all over the world, each year,” he stressed.

Subsequent checks across the region where data were sometimes easy to come by have revealed a troubling scenario among more than half of those in prison for immigration breaches.

For example, a large portion of those awaiting deportation, have been living in countries like Barbados and St Maarten for over ten and fifteen years, but now lack any documentation, real savings or any credible connections in either place to aid them in their quest to return home or be freed.

In the same way, relatives in Guyana are either hard to connect with, or are simply not inclined to help.

At least one man’s common-law wife back in Guyana with whom the Guyana Guardian had spoken, was quick to point out last week that her (now incarcerated) children father had abandoned her and their two children since 2008 to live with a woman in Trinidad, and would only communicate with hostility two or three times a year.

With him now being locked away in Trinidad and not being able to fund his deportation, she was adamant that she can continue to survive without him as she had done for nine years. Hence she reiterated that there is no way she will go and beg, borrow or steal, just to bring him back.

Preliminary checks in 11 Caribbean and Latin American countries, have put the number of Guyanese awaiting deportation (but is stuck in prisons abroad because of ticketing issues), at 47.

But if those that are awaiting state funded removal from the United States, Canada, the UK and all others are to be taken into account, then that figure is widely expected to be just over a 120.

Those stuck in the ABC countries are said to be in that position because their return or funding of their return must be acknowledged by the Guyana government, among other things before they can be shuttled out.

Efforts to clarify the accuracy of the latter situation with the ministry of foreign affairs in Guyana or to solicit their opinion, has since been futile.

First published in the Guyana Guardian

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