Migration seminar
Immigration acted 'within the confines of the law'
Stabroek News
June 6, 2004

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The Immigration Department acted within the confines of the law when it stopped the first `Migration to Canada' free seminar because the organisers did not have work permits to operate in Guyana, according to a senior immigration officer.

Stabroek News contacted the department recently and was told the organisers represented themselves as visitors, and should not have been conducting the seminars without work permits.

Immigration officials had escorted the two representatives from IPACS Law Office in Canada - Eduardo Furtado, immigration consultant and Guyana-born Canadian Doug Maloney, legal adviser - from the Guyana Public Service Union hall on May 26, where they had convened the first seminar.

Hundreds of Guyanese had turned up at the location and the officials had just started distributing forms when the officers arrived and invited them to a meeting.

After two meetings, during which they were informed that they needed work permits, the two men left the country.

According to the immigration officer, when the two men arrived at the airport they stated that they were coming into the country as visitors. Convening the public forum, with the aim of earning money at some later date, was a breach of the visiting condition, he said.

The source said that had the men stated their real purpose at the airport, the immigration officers on duty would have advised them on what they needed to do before proceeding.

He said that the men would have been allowed into the country for three days at the most to meet the relevant authorities so that they could have received work permits, according to the immigration laws.

"The people did not seek any informational guidance at the airport," the officer said.

The source said that while the men claimed they had contacted the Consulate in Canada and the Ministry of Home Affairs in Guyana and were told they did not need work permits, they could not have provided any proof of this.

It was pointed out that it is not the habit of the Immigration Department to "hound down" persons, however, the source said the two men were in the wrong and Immigration needed to act. He noted that although they were reportedly visiting, they did no sight-seeing or any such activities but were only involved in promoting their conferences.

It was pointed out that while the men could have been evicted they were given an opportunity to get the necessary documentation even though they failed to comply with the country's laws.

The source further revealed that they only learnt of the men's plan after they read it in the press and had visited Le Meridien Pegasus on the morning of the conference but they had already left. "We did not want a public confrontation and we did not want to cause any embarrassment so we attempted to make contact with them before they left the hotel, but that did not work out. So we had to proceed to the conference and acted the best way we could in the confines of the law."

The source made it clear that they were not influenced by any force, adding that they are officers of the law and they were doing what the law requires. "We did not even ask the gentlemen for their credentials we took their words. We do not witch-hunt people and we were not seeking to set a precedent. But persons must respect our laws. If they were in another country it would have been the same."

It was argued that Maloney is a Guyanese and does not need a work permit to work in his own country. However, he is a naturalised Canadian who travels on that country's passport and Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj had informed him that he needed a work permit during one of the meetings.

Furtado had told this newspaper that while the law firm was offering free advice, eligible applicants who decide to use the firm to process their papers, would have to pay a fee. He had said that his firm did not believe that people should pay money just to learn that they were ineligible.

The man had apologised to the government for any breach he might have committed, commenting that he was not here to criticise the government or the rules of the country.