by Audley Phillip
The Week That Was & What A Week It Was – The Story Of The Continued Exploitation Of The West Africans
Last week, most of us woke up to the news that a boat moving passengers from Antigua to the USVI had capsized and a number of its passengers were missing. Speculation was rife about the identity of the passengers but soon confirmation came that the majority of the passengers on that ill-fated boat were Cameroonians. The early reports confirmed that of the 32 passengers in the boat 13 were unaccounted for.
The circumstances which brought these “tourists” to Antigua are still being actively debated in Antigua & Barbuda and elsewhere today. After a grand fanfare and ceremony at V.C. Bird International Airport at which the country’s Tourism Minister, Foreign Minister and other key Tourism stakeholders presided, their entry into this paradise isle was nothing short of dramatic.
Then there were scenes of these “tourists” roaming the streets in St.John’ s and elsewhere, unable to afford to pay for local accommodation unlike what one would expect of the ordinary “tourist.” It became apparent that these “tourists” were duped, transported and dumped at our doorsteps and we were totally lost in the process as to exactly what was going on.
Then greater trouble surfaced. when the “bridge” that was extended from West Africa to Antigua collapsed and Antigua was saddled with hundreds of West Africans immigrants and not knowing what to do with them.
There can be nothing in this world worse than desperation plus ignorance, especially when you are seemingly hopeless and in despair. Any opportunity however ridiculous, would sound appealing.. And no doubt, some opportunistic persons on that side of the Atlantic, saw an opportunity to make huge sums of money and that they did.
Government and ordinary citizens here were duped into believing that our guests were bonafide tourists looking to expand trade and other opportunities between Africa and the Caribbean. Lack of geographical knowledge and awareness of exactly where they were heading, and an urgent desire to get to the United States to begin a new life might have caused these West Africans to dash at this opportunity to come to ANTIGUA, perhaps confusing ANTIGUA with a City in Guatemala by the same name.. Having never before heard of our little island paradise, they thought that they were being taken to ANTIGUA in GUATEMALA, from where they could join one of the many caravans there and cross the border and into the United States. They were all shocked to learn that the country they landed in was not ANTIGUA in GUATEMALA. And even after the appeasement by the government in offering them migrant status to allow them to remain in Antigua, the realities of life and economic deprivation soon became apparent to them in Antigua. The huge excitement of their trip across the Atlantic and the thousands of dollars that they paid in ticket fares and other incidentals, had all suddenly come to naught. They all felt cheated and taken for granted in their homeland.
Yet they were undaunted and not prepared to give up on their quest to reach the United States. They were too far away now to turn back. So with the help of unscrupulous actors locally and regionally, they were still prepared to risk all and do whatever it takes to get to the United States.
And that is the genesis of these dangerous voyages in small and overcrowded crafts. Local and regional boating people, aware of their plight, were ready to step in to fill the need.
I am not certain if this major tragedy would end these attempts as the remaining West Africans are all still adamant to get to the United States at any cost. By the look of things, the exploitation would continue.
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Yes sir, what a week that was and still not a pip-squeak or an address from the Prime Minister – that alone is a scandal when you think how the ABLP government allowed the Africans to arrive under such fanfare; and now the tragic loss of life.
Gaston Browne is hoping that Antiguans will forget about this and it will become YESTERDAY’S news.
His supporters will want this to go away quietly, however under these tragic consequences it should not and criminal charges put in place, and not only for the boat smugglers recently arrested and charged, but also investigations at the very top needs to commence as well.
If he had nothing to do with it, or he could think of a good excuse why they can’t say it was he, we would have heard his voice often and as loud as a war cannon.
Section 24 of the Immigration and Passport Act No 6. of 2014 states
24. Bona fide visitors
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person who arrives in Antigua and Barbuda on a
vessel from a place outside Antigua and Barbuda, shall be deemed to be a bona fide visitor to
Antigua and Barbuda for the purposes of this Act if, at the time of his or her arrival and
throughout the period during which the person is permitted to remain in Antigua and Barbuda
under the entry permit which shall not exceed 6 months, the person—
(a) has a ticket or other means of travelling to some other country which the person will be
able to enter;
(b) the person does not engage in any gainful occupation;
(c) the person does not behave in a manner prejudicial to the peace, order and good
Government of Antigua and Barbuda; and
(d) the person is able to maintain himself or herself and any of his or her dependants who are in Antigua and Barbuda.
Looking at (a) and (d), if immigration was following the law there is no way we could ended up with a situation of hundreds of migrants, unable to provide for themselves, looking to put themselves on tiny boats smuggling to LORD knows where.
The question that need to be ask and must be answered is WHO INSTRUCTED THE CHIEF OF IMMIGRATION TO IGNORE ALL PROTOCOLS AND PROPER VETTING OF VISITORS THAAT THE LAW REQUIRED TO BE APPLIED BEFORE LANDING THESE AFRICANS? WAS IT THE CABINET? WAS IT THE MINISTER INCHARGE OF IMMIGRATION? I am of the view that they received a call…they must have or else this is a dereliction of duty of grave concern. AND SOMEBODY MUST ANSWER…MUST
This is why I’ve said from beginning @ Dion Pelle, that our Head of the Immigration Department Ms Katrina Yearwood should have been sacked when this story hit the world headlines.
Yearwood turned a blind eye on a serious breach/situation that may have compromised our homeland security; or worse, someone higher up the chain of command has informed her to do so.
Either way you look at it she must be turfed out of office.
Here’s an example as to why:
I recently returned home from the UK on business, and had to fill in a long declaration type form, where I had to inform the Antiguan authorities where I lived on the island; my current occupation; my Antiguan passport details; airline travel details – as a patriotic Antiguan travelling back from a European country I expected these security measures.
And yet, the Head of the Immigration Department and our Prime Minister wants us to believe that everything that they have done with the Nigerian airline collaboration with Marvellous Mike was above board, with so many Africans now left homeless and destitute in Antigua?!
Give autochthonous Antiguans a break!!!
RESIGN NOW (THE BOTH OF YOU)!!!
Who was the Minister of Immigration back them?
I’m not sure @ Audley, but whoever it is should step down as well …
Chet Green WAS the Minister of Immigration then.
Rumour is, he hosted a get together with the Africans this past weekend — Was he trying to buy their silence?
IMO, this goes higher than Chet. These YES men are puppets that are controlled by their puppeteer. They are spineless, and greedy enough to follow unlawful orders. It should have been obvious to everyone when the inaugural flight landed, that these people weren’t tourist; yet, 3 more plane loads were allowed to land. Now everyone in charge wants to claim they were duped. None of the top brass were duped, but if they were, they should all resign due to their own negligence. There is a person who was the facilitator between Nigerian and Antigua. I’ll give you one guess who that is.
The sad part about this entire mess is, only the actors at the bottom (the boat captain) will suffer any consequences. The person who hatched the scheme may never even be identified, let alone be charged for the crime.
When you go to a country that you are not a resident of or a citizen, you are required to produce the following:
A valid passport
A return ticket
Proof of place to stay. If a hotel proof of payment
A valid credit card or sufficient funds to cover your stay in the country
A return date and confirm booking
If any of the above is missing, you are kept at the airport and put on the next flight out. Now why was the airline allowed to leave these passengers behind. Who gave the orders to clear them through immigration.
Now these passengers were given a grand welcome and some were even picked up in a government vehicle. Something
wasn’t above board from day one. And the corrupt individuals and facilitators now have blood on their hands.
Now the PM says his government has offered them residency. They have also stated a lot of the individuals are highly educated and skilled. How is it then that I am sure I heard the PM say on his radio program last Saturday that they are labourers or something like that. Is somebody looking for farm labourers?
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