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'America ships crime'

This tiny tropical nation on the northern coast of South America is yet to come of age, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 04:50 IST

This tiny tropical nation on the northern coast of South America is yet to come of age. Tourism is just beginning to take-off — and the rainforests are waiting to be explored. But Guyana, along with the rest of the Caribbean Islands, is reeling from spiralling crime. Deported “felons” from North America stalk the streets — to the discomfort of the tourists and the government. And the nation is complaining.

The country’s murder rate is three times more than that of the United States. Assaults and shootouts are rampant; car-lifters run amok. Authorities put it to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 — a part of the Immigration and Naturalisation Legislation of the United States. Since the enactment of the law, a growing number of felons — who had acquired permanent US citizenship — has been shipped back after completing their jail terms in the United States for illegal trafficking, peddling drugs, violence and possession and use of firearms.

Officials say a majority of this deported tribe of criminals was clean before leaving the Caribbean. Most of them migrated to the US as children and have lost “connect” with their homeland over the years. Back home, jobs are scarce. And crime is the only means of livelihood. “The problem is serious and our stretched resources are being diverted to fight crime,” Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo told HindustanTimes in an exclusive interview. Guyanese leaders argue that the backflow of criminals of Caribbean origin may be in tandem with the immigration laws of the United States, which says US residents, who are not American citizens may be deported to their countries of origin after completing their sentences, but it queers the administrative pitch. “The Caribbean countries practically do not have rehabilitation programmes to support the deportees,” said Odeen Ishmael, Guyanese envoy to the US. The criminals are deported individually or in groups after serving their sentences. Sometime, parents push for their return to the roots.

India’s gift

Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat dedicated a 20,000-capacity stadium, built by India, to Guyana for the 2007 Cricket World Cup with a wish: India and West Indies should reach the finals. The Providence Stadium is the largest in the country. Cash-strapped Guyana hopes to make cricket a money-spinner.