Guyanese are indeed stereotyped by immigration officials in Barbados
Consul Norman Faria
by Robert Bazil
August 11, 1999
THE Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Labour are working to address the rising travel and employment problems Guyanese face in Barbados.
Guyana's Honorary Consul in Barbados, Mr. Norman Faria told the Chronicle in a recent interview that his office has received several reports of Guyanese travellers being unnecessarily harassed and stereotyped by immigration and customs officials in the island.
He spoke of incidents in which women were stripped-searched by Barbados customs officers at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
"From the reports we got, these Guyanese were innocent of any wrong doing...they were traumatised afterwards," he said.
Faria, appointed in 1994, noted reports of several visitors from Guyana who were turned back at the airport based on some kind of suspicion by the Barbados Customs and Immigration officials, although the Guyanese had all the required documentation.
Stating that anyone arriving in Barbados has to provide an intended address, Faria maintained that there is an increase in the incidence of people being asked to leave. Some of those affected were seeking employment on the island, he said.
He explained that a current boom in the Barbados construction industry has caused a shortage of skilled labour such as masons and carpenters. And Guyanese tradesmen have a good reputation among employers there, Faria noted.
"Guyanese not only have a good reputation in the quality of work, but also in their work attitude...even on the sugar plantations," Faria told the Chronicle.
Focusing on the problems Guyanese migrant workers face at the airport, Faria emphasised that because of the construction boom, many `fly-by-night' employment agencies have emerged hiring migrant labour.
Some of these agencies seek to circumvent the immigration by trying to take Guyanese into the country without proper documents although they know that they have to apply for the required work permits before the migrant worker arrives.
Additionally, the Consulate has received information that Guyanese workers are underpaid in some construction sites with threats of being send back.
Faria noted that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Labour here are also working to ensure that the rights of Guyanese migrant workers are respected and that they get equal pay for equal work.
He assured that each complaint is investigated by the Consulate and the employer or immigration is contacted on the matter.
Faria is urging travellers to Barbados to ensure that they have the relevant documentation and that they produce a reliable intended address.
On the question of customs officers making Guyanese pay duty on their gold jewellery simply on suspicion that they intend to sell the jewellery, he advised locals to wear gold moderately while travelling to Barbados.
Guyanese were also told to respect the Barbados Customs and Immigration regulations, adding that he has helped many persons get their seized jewellery back.
While Faria acknowledged that the Consulate cannot get involved in everyday routine functions of the Barbados Customs and Immigration, he usually holds periodical meetings with these agencies.
The meetings are intended to sensitise the front-desk officials at the airport about the Guyanese culture; to help them to stop stereotyping Guyanese, and to reinforce the fact that not all Guyanese entering Barbados are going there to engage in wrong-doing.
The envoy reported the Chief Immigration Officer of Barbados as saying that the majority of Guyanese experience no difficulties entering the country.
On another occasion, a Guyanese schoolgirl was denied entry to Barbados on the grounds that school was in session in Barbados and she was supposed to be in school in Guyana. However, Faria argued that the girl might have been going to attend a funeral or something like that.
He referred to a case where a young Guyanese man from a rural area who had dropped out of high school, was almost denied entry to Barbados because he could not explain himself properly at the airport. He was going to buy a tractor part.
Faria said that the Consulate has a fairly good relationship with the Barbados Customs and Immigration Departments, and goodwill with supervisors at the airport exists.
There about 15,000 Guyanese in Barbados - legal residents and undocumented persons - he said.
The Barbados Government has instituted a quasi official amnesty system which allows persons, who have lived on the island uninterrupted for a period of time, to apply to have their status regularised.
The Consulate has been advising persons to take advantage of this system.
Meanwhile, because South American drug lords are using Guyanese women as couriers, about seven of these women have been held at the Grantley Adams Airport, Faria said. He added that the Consulate usually visits Guyanese prisoners.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples