Black Immigrant Daily News
TWIN ISLAND MEDIA:The government says 637 travelers who arrived from West Africa on Charter flights between November and January remain in Antigua and Barbuda.
The figure was revealed by Information, ICTs, Utilities, and Energy Minister Melford Nicholas at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press conference.
Nicholas says that in total, some 911 travellers arrived on different charter flights from Nigeria. If 637 people remain, this suggests that just 274 have departed since.
Many of the travelers are from Cameroon where there is an ongoing civil war. Some have said they would be in danger if they returned.
Last week, at the first Cabinet meeting after the election, the government reacted to reports which had been circulating for weeks prior, that some travellers who were arriving in Antigua appeared to be migrants rather than tourists.
It resolved to halt any further incoming charters.
Direct charter flights were initiated by Antigua Airways, which was an enterprise backed by the government.
The first charter arrived to much fanfare and with the promise that new opportunities were opening up for tourism.
But from the onset, some things seemed amiss. The company behind the operation was “Marvellous Mike Press”.
The government has also revealed that another charter operator also began landing passengers.
Between both operations, it was observed that when some travellers landed, they were without booked accommodation upon landing, or were unable to afford lower budget hotels, or were later discovered to be renting substandard accommodation, or were discovered to be staying in residential communities, or were being assisted with basic items such as food and clothing.
Throughout the election campaign leading up to January 18, the government appeared to avoid dealing with the issue head on. But now it seems eager to act on the issue.
Nicholas said on Thursday that the government was prepared to repatriate the travelers at its own expense. But it is not clear how many would be willing. Other questions have been lingering too.
Are all of those who remain in Antigua and Barbuda Cameroonian? Are there other nationalities who do not wish to return to West Africa? Would a repatriation flight take people back to Nigeria? Would Nigeria accept them if they are not Nigerian nationals?
Nicholas also said the government was prepared to accommodate those who might ultimately remain in Antigua and Barbuda by affording them some form of legal status in the country.
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