Published: 30th of January, 2023 by Patrick CarpenLast updated: January 30, 2023 at 15:03 pm
If we say that a backtrack crossing is “legal,” we find ourselves in a conflict of expressions. After all, a backtrack route to another country is a route that seeks to bypass immigration authorities and the necessary legal procedures for cross border travel. However, Guyana is one of those countries where these kinds of somewhat weird and unexplainable things happen. Guyana does have a “somewhat legal” backtrack route to neighboring Suriname.
Guyana’s backtrack route to Suriname starts in the Corentyne River at a point relatively unmonitored by the state security apparatus – a few miles before Guyana’s easternmost town of Corriverton in Region 6. I said, “relatively unmonitored” because the police and other security officers do go there from time to time to check for controlled substances, uncustomed goods, etc, but they never seek to prevent persons from jumping on the boat and plying the rough waters of the Corentyne River to the shores of neighboring Suriname. Neither do they bar entry to persons coming from Suriname whether they are Surinamese or Guyanese.
The existence of a legal backtrack crossing exists because of Guyana’s strong ties, history, and deep cultural roots with her western neighbor, Suriname – and this is especially true for the people of Region 6. Aside from sharing a similar history and ethnicity to the people of Region 6, Suriname had welcomed Guyanese by the droves during Guyana’s economic crisis of the 60s and 70s. Thousands of residents of Region 6 consequently have relatives in Suriname and vice versa. As a result, for many Guyanese, the need to travel to Suriname often supersedes the need to get a passport. And the Guyana government “understands” this.
Although the authorities do try to monitor the backtrack route to prevent uncustomed goods from entering the country, the backtrack route still facilitates unregulated trade and small businesses between the two countries as the point of entry is not consistently monitored nor the laws strictly enforced.
The backtrack route to Suriname is somewhat risky. There have been several cases of boats capsizing and people drowning. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, when the border to Suriname was closed, a backtrack boat dropped persons off at a point near to the No. 63 Beach in the night. Sadly, those people never made it to shore as they became trapped by the water and were swept away – their bodies surfacing at various locations days later. Unfortunately, the boat driver was not arrested or charged since his identity is not known.
Nevertheless, disasters along the Guyana/Suriname backtrack route are not an everyday occurrence. Thousands of people do cross the backtrack route safely every year.
The video below was filmed by Pastor Wendell Jeffery in January, 2023. It shows persons disembarking a speedboat on the Suriname side of Guyana/Suriname backtrack route. As you can see, there are sturdy men who offer to lift persons to dry land for a fee.