Hundreds throng Canada migration forum
-immigration officers stop meeting over documentation
May 28, 2004
Eduardo Furtado, immigration consultant with the Canadian IPACS Law Office, is seen addressing some of the persons at the GPSU building shortly before immigration officers intervened
Hundreds of Guyanese thronged a meeting yesterday advising on migration to Canada but confusion reigned after immigration officers brought it to a screeching halt because the foreign advisors had not complied with procedures. The advisors were escorted to a two-hour-long meeting with the immigration department and told what was necessary for them to be in compliance, forcing the meeting to be aborted. Hundreds of Guyanese were left angry and disappointed at the turn of events as free advice was to be dispensed on migration to Canada where large numbers of locals have moved in the last few decades. The advisors expect to reconvene the meeting later this week. The immigration officers visited the GPSU’s New Garden and Regent streets location about one hour after the advisors arrived and commenced the distribution of forms because, according to reports, the legal advisors did not file certain documents with the relevant authorities. The advisors had only 80 forms – totally inadequate for the numbers that showed up. Those at the meeting, including numerous teachers, nurses, police officers and other professionals, expressed shock at the immigration officers’ move and were angry that they were no closer to completing arrangements in their quest to migrate to Canada. The advisors were taken away a little after 10 am and had only just commenced sharing out forms. After about two hours at the immigration office on Camp Street one of the legal advisors, Guyanese-born Canadian Doug Maloney, returned to the GPSU building and informed the more than two hundred persons who were still waiting that they were hoping to rectify the problem by this afternoon.
Maloney, along with Eduardo Furtado, immigration consultant attached to the legal firm, IPACS Law Office, said they are here to assist certain categories of skilled workers and students to live and work in Canada. They are focusing on caregivers, teachers, nurses and entrepreneurs. They offer advice on the best way to apply and if it is clear applicants are not eligible they would be told what needed to be done to become qualified. When Stabroek News visited the GPSU building after the advisers were escorted to the meeting, there were about three hundred persons there and while some were leaving others were arriving. Persons there when the advisors were taken away angrily asked what could have prompted the move by the immigration officers pointing out that overseas firms regularly recruit persons without this hindrance. Most of them noted that the firm announced its intentions in the press and they wondered why the authorities had not intervened at that point. At the GPSU there were persons of all age groups and ethnicities and they all stated that the reason they went to the hall was to seek a better living than the one they have in Guyana. One woman pointed out that it was ironic that on the country’s 38th independence anniversary hundreds of Guyanese were looking at ways to get out of Guyana. The woman said she was looking for “betterment of life because we getting too much hardship in Guyana and things are so difficult that sometimes we can’t even get food.” The 34-year-old woman, who is a vendor, lamented that it is sometimes difficult to get money. She was present when the five immigration officers arrived at the venue and handed one of the advisors a note. Shortly after, the advisors announced that they had to leave to attend a meeting and would return later in the day. Two teachers from Essequibo said they travelled from 5 am yesterday to get to the city for the meeting. One of them, with 17 years experience, said she was not looking forward to retirement since in most cases the money received is not enough to maintain a comfortable living. “Sometimes some of us cannot even buy a bicycle when we retire. The mere fact that we are here sends a message to the relevant people that something is not right,” one of the teachers told Stabroek News. According to some persons, the crowd at the venue was so large that some who turned up were locked out of the building and this, they said, indicated how desperately people wanted to leave Guyana in search of a better life.
At one point, before the doors of the building were open, there was a long line from New Garden Street snaking into Regent Street. “Deh sey deh building schools and roads and so on, but sometimes we cannot even afford to put food in we mouth so wah sense road and schools mek?” a woman asked. At least one woman capitalised – true Guyanese-style – on the event yesterday as she decided to photocopy her form and sell copies for as much as $500. She got a rude awakening when persons literally fought each other to get hold of the document, some tripping over chairs and snatching at the forms. The woman was forced to leave the building without her forms and were it not at the insistence of one woman she would have even lost the original she was given. “You selling form? I get money, give me it leh me go and photocopy it...” were some of the shouts from persons who converged around the woman. Persons from the outside even pushed their hands through the louvre windows and a woman broke two of the panes. As the prospective migrants milled around, some refusing to leave, television personality Clem David, who is a local co-ordinator of the programme, arrived and many persons then surged into the building and pulled up chairs to sit. “Clem David bring forms?”, “If he bring forms I gah fo get one,” were the comments of some. David informed the gathering that the immigration officers allowed the advisors to leave after they informed them that they had done nothing wrong. He stated that others have come and done the same thing and did not have a problem and added that the advisors would be meeting with their lawyers to decide on the way forward. David stated that the event was no scam since he would not be associated with any such thing adding that if persons wanted to leave the country then the powers that be should allow them to leave. According to him, at the meeting at the Immigration Department on Camp Street, the officers told the advisors that they should have sought permission from the Minister of Home Affairs. Maloney arrived shortly after David and acknowledged that the law firm did not file certain documents. He told the crowd that they should not blame the government since they (the government) did nothing wrong. He disclosed that persons in Toronto, Canada and in Guyana had misinformed them. He said they need some more documentation to comply with the rules adding that the advisors have to abide with the laws in Guyana because if they were in Canada they would have had to do the same. He informed those gathered to return the completed forms at the same location this morning and said that when things are straightened out they would inform the public through the media. Maloney said it is expected that once everything is sorted out they would meet with people in Georgetown again on Sunday since a session is planned for Corriverton, Berbice on Saturday. The advisors are here until June 1 and are meeting with potential applicants at the seminars, which will see interviews being done on a one-on-one basis and counselling for free.