Antigua and St. Kitts are at diplomatic loggerheads over the fate of Cameroon citizens


Authorities in Antigua and nearby St. Kitts are at diplomatic loggerheads over the fate of more than a dozen Cameroon citizens who were last month rescued by passing vessels when their vessel capsized off St. Kitts.

The 14 West Africans were part of an Antigua-based group, which boarded a dangerously overcrowded smuggling vessel that should have taken them to the US Virgin Islands from where they would have creatively made their way to mainland America on flights that are treated as domestic, rather than international.

But the plan as to how the rescued bunch would have been treated by Antigua has gone awry as Antigua says it no longer sees the need to have them repatriated back to the island.

Tragedy struck on March 28 when the severely overloaded vessel sank, killing about 15 of them. A total of 14 were rescued by passing vessels, taken to St. Kitts where they remained awaiting repatriation to Antigua as the government there had promised. Only three bodies have been found.

At the weekend, however, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that he was walking back on the promise to take back the Cameroonians, because he alleged that they sooner rather than later try again to leave the island for so-called greener pastures. His announcement has caused severe anger in St. Kitts where authorities have said that they will still try to persuade PM Browne to change his mind.

“Why bring them back when they are likely to smuggle out of the country again,” he was quoted as saying in a governing party publication. This is even as the 14 are being held in a detention center in St. Kitts. Unhappy and frustrated, five of the group made good their escape at the weekend but four were recaptured and are back in detention, jobless and cashless.

Authorities in Basseterre, the capital, say they will follow international protocols in dealing with groups such as the Cameroonians even while clinging to hope that Antigua will keep its promise.

The 14 are part of a group of about 900 mostly Cameroonians who had traveled to Antigua on the now defunct Antigua Airways flights late last year.

Officials say about 650 have remained but many are trying to leave as they are broke, homesick and anxious to reach their planned final destination — the US. The airline had been billed as the answer to the decades-old prayer of Caribbean governments to establish an air bridge between the region and Africa.

“The government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to pursue workable and diplomatic solutions as it is duty bound so to do,” said a national security ministry statement.

On landing on the inaugural flight last year, many had indicated that they were anxious to leave Cameroon to escape conflict between parts of the country, which have Anglophone leanings versus those, which are Francophone as Anglos complain of deliberate marginalization by the Francophones, leading to political and ethnic tensions.

Meanwhile, PM Browne said it will make little sense to continue pursuing the dream of a Caribbean-Africa air service as illegal migrants rather than tourists and business persons are dominating the service.

“In essence, Antigua Airways is practically a defunct entity at this point as we are very gun-shy about continuing those charters because of what happened. We ended up with these opportunistic migrants who came into the country,” the prime minister told Antigua Newsroom recently.

In all about 900 West Africans had made the trip via the short-lived service. Officials say more than 600 are still on island, many struggling to make ends meet, homesick and are stranded. Authorities have asked the UN’s refugee office for help in dealing with the migrants. SOURCE: (Caribbean Life)

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  1. There’s many times when human beings get frustrated because they encounter extreme difficulties in getting out of whatever difficult circumstances that they are trying to leave. These humans probably find themselves in probably a more disastrous position than they were before. They are not in familiar surroundings and possibly face hostile humans and their financial resources are possibly now zilch. Our Prime Minister is now refusing to take them on the basis that they will take off again. There is now an impasse between us and St. Kitts. What’s next for these humans is unclear.

  2. The Foreign Minister of the twin island Federation Hon Dr Denzil Douglas downplayed any notion of a rift but stated instead that the St,Kitts and Nevis Government is looking for a diplomatic solution knowing fully well that the Cameroonians do not want to stay in St.Kitts/Nevis and would probably try and escape again in their quest to reach their desired destination.

  3. These are wealthy investors and tourists from the motherland..
    (Wink wink)
    We still need a public inquiry.AG
    maybe when you come back from England, you’ll call the inquiry.
    U know what, I’m not gonna hold my breath. Sad

  4. St. Kitts are not ignorant of the complicit, incompetent deceitful government that governs Antigua and Barbuda and want to make sure that their country is no implicated in any backwash. Who would trust a pathological bunch of misfits like Gaston Browne, Medford Nicholas, Max Hurst etc al?
    Of course these Africans have no interest in the Caribbean. We heard a clip the other night of them admitting that Antigua was the new gateway to the U.S. This will not go away quietly and I hope the instigators pay severely.

  5. Gaston Browne downplaying his role in this whole disaster again.

    First he hoodwinked Antiguans by informing us that these were wealthy tourists. Secondly, gaslighting the global aviation authorities that everything was above board; and thirdly, now St Kitt’s have been dragged into this utter mess by our NUGATORY Prime Minister – I might add – without some sort of portfolio.

    I’m embarrassed to have such an unstable and unsuitable leader.

    Please accept my sincere apologies St Kittians. Hopefully, when the Idependent enquiry eventually takes place, all will be revealed.

  6. There is a WAR going on in Sudan.Is Gaston Browne going to bring those folks from that WAR TORN COUNRTY INTO ANTIGUA? Where is Antigua Airways when needed most? NEXT LEVEL,BRING THE SUDANESE INTO ANTIGUA.This matter of going back on his words is nothing new with Gaston Browne.St.Kitts Labor Party,Antigua Labor Party are both in Governance of their respective Nations.They can slug it out,Labor in the right Corner,Labor in the left corner.

  7. What a tangled web.First,it Choksie and Dominica.Now it is with St.Kitts and the Cameroonians.I am going to kick back and relaxed and watched this fiasco played out.

    • Mr Prime minister Brown the west Africans did not just come into Antigua like that . It is now plain as daylight that they were facilitated by high powered people of your administration,where Visa,work permit, was waved , time in the country was granted plus they were greeted at the airport by ministers of your administration. Keep this at the back of your head it’s not all fools in this 268 ya,be prepared one day someone will have to answer

    • No big deal on the scheme of things your Honourable Jamale Pringle.

      Once you’ve gained governance in the not too distant future you can push for Antigua & Barbuda to become a Republic.

      Nah worry yourself about some fancy dress event across the pond.

  8. To the nation of St Kitts and Nevis. I am an Antiguan from birth. I am mindful that over the years we have not seen eye to eye on numerous issues.

    Nonetheless, our nations have worked out our differences.
    The current situation is the making of Gaston Browne and his administration, which does not reflect the entire population of Antigua and Barbuda.

    There have been numerous media circulations whereby Antiguans have denounced the foolhardy decisions of Gaston Browne to the extent that Antigua opposition party staged a protest outside of Parliament.

    Antiguans have called upon the Governor General to agree to a public inquiry to determine the facts behind Gaston Browne’s migrants, but all efforts have come to no avail.

    Government and people of St Kitts and Nevis, it would greatly assist efforts that are ongoing in Antigua if you could determine from the West Africans currently in your custody if they were trafficked and to establish they real reasons for coming to the Caribbean, what were they promised and by whom.

    The current administration in Antigua headed by Gaston is wholly corrupt, unstable , therefore, transparency from him and his administration is less likely to be forthcoming.

    As an Antiguan, I am deeply embarrassed by the shame that Gaston and his admistration has inflicted upon us. I apologise without reservations to the nation of St Kitts and Nevis.

  9. I’m a cameroonian. I see the mix up and misunderstood point many antiguan have on the cameroonian.
    It understandable but note and remember if antigua was suitable for us to stay we would but it’s not economically suitable so we move on. It’s not about America for all must were here to invest and establish and new income source.

    • @De
      You must have made your wealth from comedy. Since Antigua is not economically suitable as you say, why not migrate legally to the USA with valid documentation? Of course you can’t as you and your countrymen are trying to cross to America illegally. Comedy is not your forte. Try something useful like getting a refund from Marvelous Mike for duping a ‘wealthy investor’ like you. Wealthy? What a joker you are.

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