Migration is usually framed as a complex problem that requires complex solutions. While there are elements of this, the reality leads to a fairly straightforward and ignorant response to migrants. The Caribbean, which follows the long strides of the father’s West, has maintained a dangerous culture of xenophobia. The centralization of anti-Black and anti-poor ideologies has led to an environment of harmful discrimination and ethnic insensitivity among the region’s most vulnerable members.
Although there are always factors of elite competition among the CARICOM provinces, even Haiti rarely gets involved in these, as they have been considered an outsider unnecessarily. This has led to a long history of Haitian nationals being unable to move freely across the region. Today the Haitian passport remains one of the most restricted passports in the Caribbean and Latin America. Visa requirements for Haitians were only eliminated in 2018, allowing them six-month automatic access to CARICOM member states. Visa requirements were restored in 2019 by Barbados and Dominica.
Although Guyana has not yet reworked visa requirements, we may not be far away from that. Our ongoing objections against Haitians have long been State policy, regardless of who is in power. Today, the People’s / Civic Progressive Party continues to keep (unsurprisingly) with the policies of Western Trumpism. Their stance became even more pronounced in 2018. It must not be ruled out that the Haitian illegal entry / exit ramping narrative was made in the pre- and post-no-confidence offerings. With Haiti being predominantly Black and the former APNU + AFC coalition being predominantly Black, anti-Haitian sentiment was deliberately stunned in an attempt to increase anti-Black ethnic fear and insensitivity. Media sections through careless reporting have contributed to and continue to contribute to the inflammatory narratives that surround Haitians.
Haitians are the only group of migrants who are regularly targeted and discriminated against to this level. Although Cuban and Venezuelan migrants experience some discrimination, it is unmatched by the abuse faced by Haitians. It is no coincidence that these countries have large populations that adhere more physically to white ideals.
As much as the excuse of trafficking and smuggling concerns are pushed there to discriminate against Haitians, so too are they still being used now. Twenty-six Haitian nationals, who were illegally detained for weeks under the false pretext of protecting them, are now being deported over allegations of delivering false addresses. It seems, of course, that the larger population has little sympathy for the abuse of Haitian nationals. Guyanese can understand xenophobia and discrimination so clearly when traveling to neighboring countries like Barbados and Trinidad, but draw a blank picture in terms of their actions towards Haitians. With the majority population of Guyana living outside its borders, (many of them in an illegal role) one would think we would become a little more sensitive to the state of those seeking better opportunities for themselves and ‘ u families.
Given the heightened economic instability caused by COVID-19, rhetoric and xenophobic actions will continue to grow unfortunately. Migrants are always targeted as a cause of economic decline wherever they go. Many countries, from the Dominican Republic (DR) to Chile have done tremendous damage against Haitian populations due to anti-Blackness and job security fears. Outstanding DR events include abolition of Haitians’ birthright citizenship (since restoration) and Parsley Massacre where an estimated 20,000-30,000 Haitians were killed.
Haitians continue to face tremendous challenges in their pursuit of security and better opportunities, often resulting in imprisonment, deportation and verbal and physical assaults. This is not by pure chance. Through carefully directed internal external influence, Haiti’s political instability, poverty, and propensity for natural disasters have resulted in the woefully underdeveloped and discriminated against. Haiti has been framed as a pariah state by colonial powers ever since it became America’s first independent Black nation in 1804. With the best of liberal intentions, Haiti opened its doors as a safe haven for the oppressed. It’s a cruel joke that so many doors stay closed to Haitians now.
We have adapted the individualistic stance of our former colonial masters, where the sole is prioritized over the collective. So despite the treaties and understandings made, nations continue their march towards becoming the North Caribbean Star, while plans for regional cohesion and growth are left to gather dust.