The back track is a good deal - for the smuggler
Randy Depoo Column
Kaieteur News
April 22, 2007

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The understandable quest for better opportunities frequently take Guyanese north, primarily to the United States and Canada . However, Guyanese can be found in every country in the region. Particularly large Guyanese communities can be found in neighboring Venezuela , Suriname , Brazil and Trinidad .

Once they arrive at their destination many undocumented Guyanese have to settle for menial jobs way below their competence, frequently at subsistence wages below the legal wage rate. They dare not complain about salary or working conditions for fear that their employers would get them deported.

However, those who reach their destinations and have to settle for low-paying dirty jobs are the lucky ones. Many do not see their promised land. Instead, they end up in jails in strange foreign lands for extended periods of time; foreign lands they did not know they would travel to when they leave the shores of Guyana . Sometimes their relatives never see them again. They meet mishaps along the way and are buried in pauper's graves in strange lands. A few return in coffins.

In one particular case a Guyanese man was intercepted with an altered Trinidadian passport in Barbados . He was deported to Trinidad . Even though he admitted he was Guyanese he was detained in a Trinidad prison pending verification that he was indeed Guyanese. Before the verification came he mysteriously died in prison.

In another case a young woman found herself in Mexico with an altered Trinidadian passport. All she knew was that she was taken from country to country including Trinidad , Barbados and Jamaica before she arrived in Mexico for an overland trek to the United States . Unfortunately, the alien smugglers known as "coyotes" in Mexico took a liking to her. During a violent rape the neighbors her screams and called the police. Since she had overstayed her time in Mexico she was detained and then deported to Trinidad because she travelled with a Trinidadian passport. She never returned to Guyana and now lives in Trinidad .

A young couple departed Guyana on their way to Canada leaving their four young children behind. When they arrived in Trinidad they were taken to a safe house in central Trinidad where they were kept for three weeks. One evening their contact "Ali" came by and told them to be ready for departure the next morning at 6:00am.

Ali sent a driver to take them to the airport. On the way to the airport they stopped by a bar a few minutes from the airport. They were handed their airline tickets and "their" Trinidadian passports containing Canadian visas. The passports contained their photographs but the names of other people. They went along.

At the airport they were relieved when they made it past the airline check-in counter. However, as they waited in the departure lounge two police officers arrested them and they were charged with forgery. They were tried, convicted, and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Three other Guyanese, including a 17-year-old young lady, went to the American Embassy in Trinidad with bogus Trinidadian passports and bogus documents posing as a family. They were detected through their Guyanese accents and arrested. After three months in custody they pled guilty to forgery and were fined twenty thousand Trinidad dollars.

Why do people take these risks? Most don't know what they are getting into when they leave home. They are usually told that the smuggler has connections at the American Embassy or Canadian High Commission in Trinidad , which is usually the first stop on their odyssey. They don't realize they are being scammed.

The scam usually begins with a Guyanese agent who tells his victims that he can get them to either the USA or Canada for a fee of between US$12-15,000. Half is paid in advance and the balance when the person arrives at the destination. The person is not released to the custody of relatives until the balance is paid.

The next step is for the person to travel to Trinidad using a Guyanese passport. In Trinidad they are told to wait until their visa is ready. Generally they expect a valid visa in their own passport. However, right before they board an aircraft they are given a bogus travel document. At this stage many consider it too late to turn back. They have already paid the non-refundable down payment. Some make it through.

They are usually briefed that if they are intercepted they should give false information about who gave them their travel documents. They should claim that a "red man" met them at a restaurant and gave them their documents and that they had no address or telephone number or address for him.

The smuggler usually promises that he will send them again with fresh documents at no additional charge. However, the smuggler does not cater for their arrest and imprisonment.

Most people do not realize that if they are intercepted beyond imprisonment they face permanent ban from the United States and Canada . The back track is a good deal - for the smuggler.