Georgetown, Guyana- (August 10, 2015) – Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix has promised a review of the immigration systems following an incident where eight Indian nationals entered Guyana illegally on an Insel Airways flight form Curacao on July 19th 2015.
Speaking at a press conference at his office at Waterloo Street, Georgetown today, Minister Felix said that the incident has brought the need for airlines to exercise caution and ensure that those utilizing their services have the requisite documents and fulfill entry requirements.
“The work of the Ministry impacts activities at every level of government. Our mandate of ensuring the security of our ports and borders is enshrined in the Constitution and the necessity for due diligence is essential. Previously, there has been a laissez-faire approach to some of the problems we are currently experiencing,” he said.
He said that as a part of the mandate of the Ministry of Citizenship, the ports and borders of the country must be protected through proper channels of immigration. He noted that while the new administration came and met some of the systems, it will not be allowed to persist as is.
The Minister noted that “it is unfortunate that the persons who were attempting to enter our country had not followed the appropriate procedures and it is also unfortunate that the airline that delivered them to these shores chose to let them board without the requisite documentations.”
To this end, Minister Felix disclosed that the Ministry will be assiduously working to see that the system is not only reviewed but is made effective as well.
“As such, while we are in the process of reviewing our systems with the aim of making it more efficient, we deemed it necessary to disallow entry to the country at this time, both to be fair and nonpartisan and to send a message to anyone who thinks that they will take advantage of our legendary hospitality. We will welcome to our country anyone who demonstrates proper documentation and necessary funds to support themselves while here and will not condone any airline that renege their responsibility of ensuring that travelers are suitably documented for entry into Guyana,” he declared.
According to Minister Felix, the eight Indian nationals entered Guyana without following the International Aviation rules and regulations which require that passengers must have a visa before they purchase an airline ticket, which would entitle them to enter that territory as well as a return ticket if they are not citizens.
“Those nationals had neither of those when they arrived in Guyana. No visa, no return ticket. No one was there to receive them,” he said.
Minister Felix said that the process to send the men back to their country was further delayed after it was found that the airline, Insel Air, which had transposed the men, had a problem facilitating them on the flight.
“The representatives of the airline first agreed and then they disagreed. They came in around 23:15hrs on the 19th (July) and that very flight should have returned at 6:45hrs on the 20th. When they were denied entry, their passports were taken to the airline operatives on duty with the information that they were refused leave to land. The standard procedure is that they ought to be put back on the same flight on which they came. Their passports I am told were handed to the airline operatives and then about 4:00hrs when checks were made to have them booked in on the same flight, the airline operatives said that they couldn’t do it. They said that they were seeing something about Copa Airlines. Immigration then said that they did not come on Copa and they cannot go with Copa,” Minister Felix explained.
Felix explained that much delay was caused while Insel Air tried unsuccessfully to get the passengers out on Copa Airlines. The Minister said that it was only when immigration insisted that the passengers leave on the 6th August that arrangements were made for the Indian Nationals to leave.
In the meantime, Minister Felix said that he believes that an investigation may be launched, “there seems to be something amiss with the condition of the men, their circumstances and overall situation”. He related that given his background in the Guyana Police Force, it is unusual and strange that the men came all this way from India to spend 16 days in Guyana without so much as funds to last them one day.