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Guyana, Barbados and immigration

September 1, 2005        Commentary Archives

Amidst the barrage of accusations being thrown at Barbados' immigration authorities by Guyanese  organizations. The local banter coming out of Barbados, regarding some elements of the Guyanese immigrant population. I write this piece.

First let me make the point that I don't live in Barbados and therefore make no assumptions about the state of affairs in my beloved country.  As the old expression goes "you had to be there."

St. Lucians and Vincentians

As an aside. I recall the days of my youth, helping my sister in the cane fields after school. Surrounded by Creole chatter of the St Lucians and the Vincentians. I can't remember any discord over their presence in Barbados back then. Quite frankly We were glad to have them, and look forward to seeing them the next season. We needed them. Most Bajan  would not go near a cane field, except to tear up a good [juicy] sugar cane patch.

One caveat  though, relative to the Guyanese. Is  the staggering numbers (estimates of 30,000)

The mixed feelings that I've experienced over these barbs. Local Bajan and Guyanese organizations at large. Stems from my knowledge of Guyana growing up in Barbados. The natural resources of that country Bauxite gold etc., and the sense of kinship back then between the two countries.

I can remember the Bajan press having a field day accusing Prime Minister, Errol Barrow of the monkey-see-monkey-do, of Forbes Burnham's Guyana polices.

When Forbes Burnham  made his famous declaration " We cannot be an independent country and be a political Satellite," [my memory] setting the stage for Guyana's republic status. The sentiment in the press was that Barrow was bound to follow. I got the sense back then that there was a greater connection between Barbados and Guyana..

What is more distressing to me, is how did Guyana with all of its resources. Come to having its citizens begging at someone else's door?

Some historic context

The problems of a country may seem to unfold overnight, but In the real world it is the progression of things. Sometimes over decades. Guyana over the decades has been besiege by problems, Barbados hopefully will never have to deal with.

There're a few school of thought. One states that the political conflict between Africans and Indians has done grave harm to the social and economic fabric of   Guyana.

Who can forget the political polarization between Forbes Burnham's People’s National Congress (PNC) and Cheddi Jagan's People’s Progressive Party (PPP). OR more to the point PNC for Africans and PPP for Indians. This they say has resulted in a  mass exodus of Guyanese (African and Indian most of them educated) from their country to the United States and Europe. A brain drain, if you will.

It is interesting how many times in recent years, and of late. I've read in the New York Guyanese Indian paper, statements accusing other Indians of letting the African run them out of Guyana.

Another school of thought is that Guyana's decline started as a result of their problems with Surinam's and Venezuela's claims to Guyanese territory. The torrential flooding Guyana has experienced in recent memory, and the high crime rate hasn't help.

Barbados for Bajans

I recently had a visit from a Bajan relative visiting here in the U.S. He has assured me that the barbs flying out of Guyanese organizations accusing Barbados of Guyanese bias, are misrepresenting the facts. He proceeded to mentioned a long list of Guyanese crimes and misdemeanors: falsification of documents, disingenuous product claims from street vendors, refusing to honor their visa requirements, taking local jobs and such.

Well this sounds like the price prosperous countries pays for subsidizing their labor requirements with cheap imported labor. The fall out that occurs when people who are desperate to get in, try to stay in.

Look around the world. Barbados' immigration woes is a microcosm of  what's happening in other parts of the world to prosperous countries. Ask the west Germans how they feel. The number of the Africans and Asians in their country. You will hear Bajan sentiment.

Doing it in America

Here in America many of our Caribbean people, even at the risk of being caught and put in prison plays fast-and-loose with Americas immigration laws: Staying past visa requirements, false documents, Black Americans accuse us of taking their jobs. (When in fact the reason we get them, is because of the substandard wages, they wouldn't touch), and a very small percentage of us come just to lime and commit crimes. Sounds familiar.

The Guyanese are our brothers and sisters. I'll be willing to bet that a very small percentage of the Guyanese immigrant population is bringing crime to Barbados The majority of them (I'll be willing to bet) are hard working people looking for a better way out of the misery that Guyanese politics have brought on them.

Having said all the above. No country including Barbados can afford to let their immigration policy run amok. Guyanese press and political organizations have had decades of practice shooting from the hip. The key here is to manage the situation. By all accounts that is what Barbados is doing. Hopefully with an eye on helping our neighbors.

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