UPP to stage protest against government’s decision on African ‘visitors’

African refugees at Dr-Lay-Apts-New-Winthropes

The opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) said it will stage a protest on Tuesday against the government’s decision to legalise the status of hundreds of African migrants who travelled to the island via Antigua Airways and other chartered flights from West Africa.

Last week, the Cabinet announced that it was looking into the possibility of granting legal status to those West African visitors who wished to stay in the country.

This decision came after the Africans began arriving in Antigua late last year after fleeing the war-torn country of Cameroon, which shares a border with Nigeria.

Observer media spoke with UPP member Franz De Freitas about the protest planned for 9am tomorrow outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, the people are facing a terrible human trafficking tragedy imposed on our West African brothers and sisters [from] Nigeria and Cameroon, and the United Progressive Party thinks that a lot of exploitation has happened in this case.

“We believe that the solution to the self-imposed problem of the [Antigua Barbuda Labour Party] … is something that the people should not live with and cannot tolerate,” he said.

The UPP, in a press statement last week, questioned the decision taken by the government and cited national security concerns as well as the implications for the labour market.

DeFreitas said that while the UPP has no issues with providing solutions to the issue, claims of insensitivity to the plights of the West African migrants were unfounded.

“My position is that the people who are here from Africa were taken advantage of, and we do not believe that just granting people unilaterally … is not doable without a Parliament … there are better ways to address the issue,” he said.

The controversy over West African visitors stemmed from a July 2022 announcement by the Gaston Browne-led administration of an agreement with Nigerian businessman, known as Marvellous Mike, to create an airline called Antigua Airways.

Once touted as the regional link between Antigua and West Africa as well as attracting wealthy African entrepreneurs to invest in the nation, the first official flight into the country occurred on November 1, 2022.

Since then, several other chartered flights from the same airline were reported over the next two months, bringing what the government deemed as tourists and called any criticism over the situation as “xenophobic”.

However, Antigua Airways was not the only chartered airline operating between Antigua and West Africa, as Observer media reporting revealed that an Abuja-based entity called FastFlyLinks Travel & Tours transported individuals here for a hefty price of US $5,000 each.

How exactly another airline was able to enter Antiguan airspace without airport authorities being alerted to their presence remains unanswered; however, Antigua Airways’ Managing Director Opeyemi Olorunfemi told our newsroom that Antigua Airways and FastFlyLinks were separate entities.

Despite extensive media reporting on the matter during the months of December and January, the government, at the time, seemed hesitant to fully address it.

It was not until a few days after the January 18 General Elections that re-appointed Attorney General and Minister with responsibility for Immigration, Steadroy Benjamin was reported to have stated concerns over the arrivals and sought a temporary halt of the chartered West African flights.

Following the announcement of the temporary pause, the government also revealed plans to facilitate flights to repatriate the migrants to Nigeria.

However, the West Africans — in several interviews with Observer — called on the government to allow them to stay in the country over alleged fears expressed by many of them that they could be killed if they returned to the African continent.

While Cabinet spokesperson Melford Nicholas indicated that the government did accept some blame for the situation, he expressed steadfast belief that the government will “not be shying away from trying to forge a way forward to offer flights and strengthen economic channels from the Motherland”.

The UPP called on the government to be transparent as to the “genesis” of Antigua Airways, and “make other arrangements that will not bring further hardship to an already suffering and over-burdened population”. (OBSERVER)

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  1. Why Franz doesn’t go back to the US where he stole the church money or back to the same Africa with the people he trying to send back. He always talking about Africa but now he want to send these poor people to their deaths. Shame on him. He forget they look like us. But not really as he red skin. All he is for is political gain and to fill his pockets. But not he, he will never be in parliament. We don’t want no church money theft.

    • @ Born Antiguan: Franz will not go back to the US bcuz the grass is now green under the Labour Party. If he & others of UPP were true Patriots of Antigua they would refrain from creating international scandal on this blessed nation. They have done it in the past and failed and now they are trying again but will also fail miserably

      • Who’s really creating scandal in Antigua? Can you recall who enthusiastically announced the Antigua and Barbuda Government and the Marvelous Mike business venture. Who told us that we had equity in the Antigua Airways and from whom did we learn that very wealthy African tourists and business men were heading to our shores to effect change in our economy? It’s obvious that you listen attentively to your masters but you don’t understand what they say.

    • You people need to address the subject and stop attacking individuals. The Africans were never asylum seekers; they were presumably, ‘very wealthy persons ‘ and now that the scheme has run aground, the government is trying do an about turn. This is nothing short of a smuggling ring with the government as. the mastermind. The PM will have to account to the relevant organizations because he personally made the introduction to us.

  2. Shmmmm some antiguans cannot get a good job in there own country and some can hardly make ends meet even they are working have troubles with others coming to our shows to look for help but what about the carribeen people that come to antigua and have such a hard time to get there working papers and so on now we bring Africa and giving away everything to them for free hmmm

    • The presence of Africans here as really brought a drastic change to our country’s economy. Those Africans are not poor for your information. They are only running away from the civil war in their country to be here for a while and some paid flight tickets and tried to move Antigua but most airlines refuse to board them. African is a giant continent and 100 times more developed than Antigua. They’re more educated and have good manners than these our Antiguan

      Can you imagine they paid almost $5000 USD each to fly into Antigua?

      Since they arrived here, they’ve been lodge in hotels and paying a minimum of $30,$40,$50 USD per night.

      They’ve been feeding and pay transport bills from their own pocket.

      So who is feeding them? How does it affect the economy if rather they’re adding money into our country than subtracting?

      Let’s try to think positively before speaking some trash about our African brothers and sisters.

      We should stop developing hatred on them for no reasons.

      One love to my Antiguan brothers and sisters

    • Antiguan 4ever

      Melford is severely deluded what skills could they have that we don’t have or could not be employed from CARICOM citizens?

      Firstly, Nigeria is not an international tourists destination,
      Secondly, it is a politically unstable country because of the numerous coups,
      Thirdly, Nigeria’s first president, Mutualah Muhammad who attempted to stamp out corruption and promoted a government of transparency was brutally murdered for his belief.

      From the assignation of the president ,Nigeria continued to strive on corruption, lastly, Nigeria is renowned for money laundering, drugs and human trafficking and selling of human body organs.

      Melford should declare to the nation which of those skiill sets that ALP is preparing Antigua and Barbuda for.

  3. Send home the Guyanese and Spanish smaddy; Guyana is now a rich country, and the DR is not part of Caricom. Then we’ll have room for our African brothers.

  4. It is good that the UPP are going to demonstrate -and hopefully then debate – this issue when Parliament returns.

    The country was misled and lied to about the airline collaboration with Africa, and now it looks like the tax paying citizens of Antigua & Barbuda will not only pick up the tab, but this may also put us all at risk (especially with homeland security) if immigration and vetting procedures were not strictly followed correctly within international law(s).

    What should really concern the tax paying public, is that the main ABLP players in this whole fiasco have gone very very quiet.

    Why won’t Gaston Browne, Max Fernández, Chet Greene, Colin James come out and clarify the whole situation? Oh, and not forgetting that the Head of the Immigration Department Ms Yearwood has a lot to answer for as well!

    Are they all hoping that this will quietly go away?

    Many questions needs to be answered by these people before other countries take more drastic measures and impose visa and other travelling restrictions on honest and hardworking Antiguans.


    • I am in agreement that people should be held accountable and come up with a realistic solution. Deportation! Antiguans, you have to open your eyes. Stop fighting against each other and realize you are be replaced. These people are not your brothers or sisters and they will tell you that explicitly. They are migrants and need to be treated as such. The island cannot sustain 600+ migrants that have nothing to contribute and have needs that the country can’t afford their own. Let me say what’s not being said, Antigua has a low US immigration quota and the news spread that its easy to get US residency through Antigua. Ask the Dominicans they figured it out decades ago. The migration through Antigua, Guatemala would give them US migrant status through Mexico but they will have to cross the border. This was the original plan so let them go to that route. Get real people, our country is being used big time by professional scam artists.

  5. Hope Pringle ready for the INTERNAL PROTEST brewing against him as “leader”. He busy protesting against his bloodline this Black History Month, but just wait til his own party unleash the attacks against him.

  6. You Laborites? My God, man! This is a big blunder by the ALP who are now claiming that they were ‘duped’. Please! International eyes will never view this simplistically, and you clowns will also be affected by this in the long run. How difficult is it for you to use something call a brain. Wrong is wrong and it does not come in colors. The issue on the table here is the Antigua Airways Scandal. This has nothing to do with Pringle or Franz. Contribute something of value, if you can, relevant to the topic and forget the character assassination and mudslinging.
    The problem here in Antigua is that our governmental departments, ONDCP, police, Immigration, Governor general, Foreign Affairs just sit by, watch crimes being committed and do absolutely nothing. We are a strange people.

    • No blunder by the ALP. Whoever the travel agent was that sold them the flight package made the blunder. Supporting refugees or people fleeing civil unrest is not inhumane according to international law. Sad that it continues to be politicized and tagged incorrectly as human trafficking by UPP. Trying to tarnish the very country they desperately wanted to “govern”.

      • So if what you are saying is true @ Truth Be Told, why don’t our politicians say so as well?

        However, you keep defending the indefensible! Goodness gracious, why are some people still so politically inept?

        Lord help us …

  7. UPP trying to use racism to get the vote. Just as they pandered to conspiracy theorists in the pandemic, now using another of trumps standard tricks

    • A black person cannot be considered a racist against another black person. The are both the same race.

      And what vote is UPP trying to get ? The next election is 5 years away.

      Human smuggling is a CRIME. It seems you have no problems supporting crimes as long is it is done by your party. This is the low your morals are.

      It’s about RIGHT and WRONG not Blue and Red

      • Well said @ SMDH, Arnold bringing up race when race is not the issue at all.

        He just throwing our negative soundbites to attract attention and to deflect from Gaston Browne’s short comings.

        They won the election and they still upset …

      • @smdh

        If YOU have E-V-I-D-E-N-C-E of human smuggling, give it to the police. Sounds like something YOU want to be involved in.

  8. Obviously these people were told that Antigua is nothing more than a simple stepping stone on their way to illegally entering the USA and most likely Canada and Europe. Antigua was NEVER the final destination. So, the crap about “brothers and sisters” needs to stop.
    Credible word advised that a group of the Africans were already caught on a west coast boat destined for Puerto Rico!
    Nobody is demonstrating to “tarnish” Antigua. The UPP is demonstrating to try and stop the “tarnish” coming from this latest greed $$ induced fiasco that has the capability of achieving a total cut off for Antigua from all our neighbours on this side of the globe. Interesting that NONE of the other Prime Ministers in the area have ever agreed to take in the airline or its’ passengers!!

  9. Wait is it not Africa Franz had to go to reach Antigua. And also I thought he created an organization to help the African when he was at a said church in the US 🤷‍♀️

    Fake Dashiki-wearing franz

  10. Harold Lowlife and UPP needs to throw away their garments and all their books about Marcus Garvey , Tim Hector and Mandela. I wonder what Allister Thomas saying about his African brothers and sisters on his radio show ZDK?

  11. de BANKRUPT’s family is living comfortably in the US while he is in Antigua saying 95% of Antiguans are hungry, and now protesting to disrupt their lives. Unbelievable 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️

  12. Many of you ALP cult members would believe any crap the cult leader tell you. If anyone of you believe these people could come up with US$5000K to buy airline tickets then come up with an additional US$2000K to pay the coyote and now can’t even by salt in antigua, I have a bridge to Barbuda you can invest in.
    Just check how much money US$7000K is Nigerian Liera or Cameroon currency.
    Don’t try to pull at my heartstrings with this African brother crap, because we were told they were wealthy tourists now they are refugees. But these people were just used as a cover for the cargo that came on these planes.

  13. Isn’t it strange how the ABLP supporters on this particular thread are somehow trying to throw shade and blame the UPP representatives for this Gaston Browne s#*t show.

    These acolytes will not place the blame where it belongs.

    Again, the world is watching us, and time and time again we are showing our political ignorance – you only have to read previous comments about Antiguans political wayward ways. Embarrassing!

  14. Folks, these Laborites will sink with the ALP ship. Notice, they’re not coming up with any sensible, rational thought, just blaming UPP or throwing character assassination bombs. Wow! This is the stuff that cults are made of. If their leader tells them to go Jim Jones or David Koresch they would rather meet their demise than admit that ALP is toxic. It’s what ALP has done from antiquity; scandals,fraud,lawlessness, corruption and the like. This government will fall, the handwriting is on the wall. Let’s just hope it’s sooner than later

    • “…If their leader tells them to go Jim Jones or David Koresch they would rather meet their demise than admit that ALP is toxic …”

      @ Watching, now that made me laugh out loud 😂😂😂

      Good one …👏

  15. UPP DESPERATE!! Trying to tarnish the very country they want Jammarl Pringle to crash and take to IMF

  16. Come on @ Big up JOANNE etc. I am not sure anyone can tarnish Antigua any more than this present ALP administration has done. Just list the crooks associated with Gaston Brown who are now rotting in jail if you can. The future of this country is truly bleak if Gaston Brown continues along the path he is hell bent on pursuing. UPP went to IMF ONCE, at a 1% interest loan, paid in full. Gaston Brown is up to 94 borrowings at four or five times the interest rates. We have absolutely no record of our debt stock, but it is dire. But hey, they tell you IMF is a bad thing, and you are incapable of thinking for yourself, so you take it as is. I suppose if they tell you to drink cyanide because it’s red cool aid you would drink it?

  17. Pringle should be enrolled in a special needs class where he’ll learn the basic alphabet and in so doing he may learn proper pronunciation of words.

    • Hey @Real Talk, I spent a couple of years back in the day teaching children with a vast array of special needs and it was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done; and some of the severe disabilities that many of the pupils had were heartbreaking and made me weep.

      Beware of Karma boss, when ridiculing someone with an impediment … it may come back and bite you!

  18. Pringle does NOT have an “impediment”
    He simply dunce politically and otherwise

    Now get your pompous opposition self to Walmart and buy him a phonics reading book

  19. Worthless is too good a name to describe the UPP flunkies..Pringle the worst leader ever should be enrolled in a special needs class where he can learn the alphabet and he may eventually be able to properly pronounce words.

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