Gaston Browne administration taking no responsibility for migrant boat tragedy


SOURCE: Daily Observer- Information Minister Melford Nicholas was steadfast in his assertion yesterday that the government bears no responsibility for Tuesday’s boat tragedy believed to have claimed the lives of 16 people – comments that have been condemned by the Opposition.

Three men have been confirmed dead and another 13 people are missing after a fishing vessel transporting Cameroonian migrants from Antigua to St Thomas capsized near St Kitts.

Minister Nicholas chaired a press conference on Thursday attended by top government officials seeking to answer questions from the media relating to the incident and the ultimate originator of this event—the arrival of hundreds of African migrants aboard chartered flights from Nigeria last November and December.

Nicholas said the government had attempted to help them and had “made no hostile overtures” towards them.

“The fact that they, of their own volition, seemingly would have decided to embark on this initiative, the government can take no responsibility,” he said.

According to initial investigations, the migrants were aboard a Guadeloupe-registered vessel, La Belle Michelle, which arrived in Antigua from the French overseas territory on March 25.

Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood revealed that most of the migrants aboard the vessel were men, along with three females.

Fallout from the Antigua Airways venture – which sought to establish direct links with Africa – continues to plague the government as questions linger over its response to the influx of Africans whom the government continues to claim entered the country as “tourists”.

In the latest Cabinet notes, the government seemingly sought to suggest that the migrants undertook this risky move due to the “hostility” meted out to them by “angry people”.

Minister Nicolas said that while most persons have been “hospitable” to the migrants, there have been some “bad actors”.

“They have also told the tale in the background, and … it is critical for us to understand the conditions that may have led them to take a risk-filled decision to other lands and they have told a story of … areas where they have been exploited … in so far as rent and other measures are concerned, notwithstanding the government’s decision to provide them with a legal means of staying here, that all may not been well with them,” he said.

The Cabinet notes also suggested blame on those who accused the Africans of being illicit voters, a notion which has been debunked by several authorities including the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission.

“During the period of campaigning, leading up to the January 2023 general elections, the migrants learned that they had been wrongly accused of being impostor voters, and other objectionable accusations had been hurled at them,” the Cabinet notes said.

Yesterday afternoon, the United Progressive Party (UPP) released a statement condemning the ruling administration for seeking to wash its hands of the matter.

The UPP noted the government previously admitted that it had been “duped” into allowing three flights — originally believed to be Antigua Airways flights — to land, however, it was later revealed they were from a different charter company.

The statement admonished the administration for seeking to “distance itself” from what has happened to these migrants who have repeatedly claimed that Antigua was not their final destination, but got stranded here because of the government’s blunder.

Meanwhile, media sources in St Kitts and Nevis revealed that the bodies of the deceased migrants are being held at Saddler Funeral Home.

St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Terrance Drew told journalists that he has yet to personally communicate with Prime Minister Gaston Browne, but indicated that relevant agencies between the two islands have been in constant communication.

Prime Minister Drew also indicated that the final decision as it relates to the next steps for the 16 persons who were rescued — including the two Antiguans — will need to be negotiated.

He also noted that a doctor and a psychologist have been asked to help the survivors.

Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney, Chief of Defence Staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force Colonel Telbert Benjamin, Director of the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) Lieutenant Colonel Edward Croft, Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood, and Comptroller of Customs Raju Boddu also attended the press conference.

Meanwhile, criminal investigations and recovery efforts remain ongoing.

The smuggled migrants were found 12 nautical miles south of St Kitts (40 nautical miles from Antigua) by a passing luxury vessel.

According to reports, several were found clinging to La Belle Michelle which was described by Colonel Benjamin as a “weathered, fibreglass fishing vessel”.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in a statement on Tuesday, expressed “deep sorrow” at the loss of life and distress suffered by persons aboard the vessel.

However, both Browne and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, who serves as Minister for Immigration, were noticeably absent from the press conference to answer reporters’ questions.

The government previously pledged to launch “a full investigation into the circumstances of this unlawful and dreadful affair, including the involvement of any citizens and residents”.

Last week, the government announced that it had reached out to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for assistance with the African migrants.

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  1. gaston browne, his cabinet and his cabal are all idiots.

    As far as I am concerned, all of dem have blood on their hands.

  2. Medford Nicholas, what the hell were you doing heading up this “press conference?” Gaston Browne, Cutie Benjamin, Chet Green and Robin Yearwood are the ones who should be answering questions. You have lied so much your face is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” As you lie, your face reflects the evil.
    When have these idiots we call government ALP ever took responsibility for anything?
    You can lie and front all you want, the ALP government facilitated this Antigua Airways facade, bringing these Africans here under the guise that this was a gateway to the US, leading to these deaths.
    What a conglomeration of stooges. Yearwood, Rodney, Croft, Benjamin. Civil servants sent to cover for the real culprits.
    Man, Steven Spielberg could not write a better surreal saga!

  3. Ii the ABLP government didn’t get involved in bringing the Africans to Antigua in the first place (remember the fanfare?), how can they now try and slip and slide away and absolve themselves from those poor souls who tragically lost their lives?


  4. I am sure that some UPP supporters & members of the hierarchy are not sleeping too well after that fatal incident with the Africans. If they were hospitable towards them and negated from saying derogative things about them then those Africans would remain here enjoying life as the PM expected them to do. It is real sad but UPP must remember Life is a cycle. Be the demon today but tomorrow the coin will flip.

    • Talk sense nah boss, and stop trying to flip the script, and just place the blame where it really lies!

      Furthermore, you and I know that if the opposition government had been involved with this Nigerian airline fiasco, people like you, From The Sideline, Curious and many others would have castigated the UPP and had a field day.

      Come now, and stop fooling yourselves …

    • @ Bluddy Bloke
      Why would you think the Africans would spend so money to come to a dot like Antigua. They have never heard of this place. They have heard of a Antigua Guatemala, which was suppose to be their gateway to the USA. This was the name on the the Antigua plane. Where are the rest of the Africans, in Guadeloupe where they hope to get to France?
      Bluddy Bloke, we know most of labour supporters are docile, but remember when you write your crap, the rest of the world reads and also sensible people in Antigua.


    • What a load of absolute BS. These people arrived in Antigua expecting passage to the US. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind about that, except idiot ABLP supporters and apologists like yourself.
      If you believe Browne allowed the West Africans to come to Antigua to live a better life, you must have just landed from Mars. He worked with the bandits in Nigeria to traffic those poor souls. He is guilty of murder. No lying by Melford or hiding by the PM is going to exonerate those involved in this mess.
      I truly feel sorry for you BB – you have been totally brainwashed, and probably happy to be so. Enjoy your Christmas turkeys. Soon enough they will be no more.

    • Bluddy & Bloke…man(Bloke), I can tell you got some Bluddy, chapped lips from all the ass kissing and sucking that you do!

  5. Nice try Buddy Bloke! It is Gaston who was not sleeping well and you know it that is why he couldn’t be found. He is ashamed that he of supposedly high intellect was taken for a fool! This is absolutely his fault and he knows it. He could have stopped this LONG ago but ambition prevented him from doing what was right and here we are. Lives have been lost tragically!

    • @Bloody Bloke. Your name describes you but darn! Can you get anymore ridiculous??? They were suppose to be wealthy tourists, then they were runming away from being slaughtered. They find themselves in a strange land, ripped off by people known only to the authorities and you want to tell me a few curious looks and comments were more disturbing to them than cutlass weilding thugs in Cameroon??

  6. Melford Sir. Please stop with your nonsense . They came to the island under the fanfare of the government promoting African tourism. Don’t try to play silly . People have not forgotten all the promotion the government did for the airline. When some of the Africans spoke about what they were promised as to where their final destination would be they were called out as been un-truthful . What was sold to them seemed to be a pie in the sky. What a tangled web we weave when the people we try to deceive. This nonsense about upp been hostile to them forcing them to flee is such a dumb and brain dead statement. Nothing is wrong in admitting a mistake after realizing that you were been duped for been so gullible .

  7. Look within yourselves first before blaming others. The majority votes placed the current party in power. So those who voted them in are just as guilty of trying to distance themselves from this debacle too. I am guilty of turning away from trying to welcome our fellow people to Antigua and taking a political outlook to the issue. We all share some blame .

    • Bluddy, ABLP is the government did UPP sink the boat? Last I heard*inquiry* was not a derogatory term.
      @ Just saying…me not pan the tek blame train with you. I am sorry these lives were lost but the decision they took to board that boat had not one ting fu do with me nor john public. They said they were educated, well if 32 people board a 30 foot vessel what would be a likely outcome.
      God will determine whose blood pan whofa shoulder, but it is certainly not mine. And you people can continue chatting rubbish but every secret thing God will reveal. Just wait.

  8. Gaston’s main focus is scheming to stay in power. This is what he cares about power, not developing Antigua for Antiguans. He will bring in non nationals to displace us and give away all our lands in Antigua and Barbuda to foreigners who don’t look like us and then take the rest of the prime lands for himself, family and friends. He and members of his government are pretending to love the Africans, but all they see are potential voters.
    When there are crooks, thieves and self enrichers running the country, what do you expect but one scandal after the other. Now st. Kitts is drawn into this scandal.
    For the Labour Party, all is clouded by greed.

  9. The ALP Ministers are DIRECTLY responsible for these deaths. Their scampish Antigua Airways scheme allowed these African migrants to come to Antigua and these migrants are now causing problems in Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and they will continue to try to illegally migrate to North America until they either are successful or die trying to get there.

  10. So, Gaston Browne, the brightest bulb on God’s earth, was DUPED by Marvelous Mike.
    DUPED by another fake foreign investor, again!
    So, Gaston. Tenman. From the Sideline, Alex, Luther are you going to cancel and retrieve the ten or more Antigua and Barbuda passports that were issued in the now DEFUNCT Antigua Airways deal?
    Blinded by Greed, Gaston Browne will be DUPED again

  11. What we should lose sleep over are the many unsolved murders in our nation! Why we not marching for the family that continue to weep fu dem picknie lives that seem to be of no value to the powers that be. If people want fu tek dem life, it is sad BUT I ain’t gonna lose sleep for that.

  12. To absolutely no surprise Porkston Browne and her cronies are not taking any responsibility for migrant boat tragedy. Porkston Browne and her crew only take responsibility for creative enrichment schemes at the cost of the citizens except for From the Battylines, Bulling Bloke, Cornell Tenman Hughes, Eric the now dead Red. Dem already getting what they need from their Browne lips.

    Apparently Porkston Browne and her administration are trying to convince the rest of us that these Nigerians came to our country on their own volition for a vacation and to possibly invest in our economy. They spun that lie to us and now they themselves are even believing that lie. I’ve never seen such a bunch of inept dumbass asswipes.

    If Porkston Browne and her IDA’s did their due diligence from the get go, they would have realised this was a scam from the beginning. However, it wasn’t about anything above board. Child’s play Porkston Browne thought she could outsmart the King of Scammers and parlay another creative enrichment scheme to benefit from. This time it failed miserably and a resounding backfire.

    Had the immigration department done its job and stopped the passengers of the laughing stock of Porkston Browne, Antigua Airways, from entering our country, the same Africans would not have been stuck here in the first place. No visas, no intended addresses, nothing. As it is, everyone else visiting our country has to have all of that in place. If the immigration department and our government is not responsible for securing our nation and us citizens, then who is? We need to remove the current government and put another one in place who will work for the people and do what’s right for us and protect our nation. Enough of the creative enrichment schemes.

    The ABLP government is wholeheartedly responsible for this latest debacle of magnitudes and ultimately the unfortunate deaths of the Africans. ABLP had the majority of representatives in government at the time the African arrivals happened.

    It is clear that Porkston Browne and the ABLP do not have our country’s interest at heart, much less our people’s interest.

    A No Confidence Vote must be called and they must all be removed from power and tried in a court of law for their unscrupulous creative enrichment schemes. If they aren’t removed, our country and our people will continue suffer from the international community all thanks to Porkston Browne and her cronies.

    Porkston Browne and ABLP administration are the direct cause of and fully responsible for the migrant boat tragedy.

    Time to call a No Confidence Vote.

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