Cabinet likely to give ‘status’ to West Africans, but more discussion needed on work-permit removal for CARICOMers

The future of the Africans who are now stranded here due to the cancellation of charter services by the so-called Antigua Airways is now under consideration.

The situation reportedly was discussed in Cabinet on Wednesday, February 1, during its weekly sitting.

In light of the cancellation, the Executive reportedly discussed what is to be done about the visitors from West Africa and those who have been unable to go on to their desired destinations and remain here. 

According to the Cabinet, it has received information that the remaining visitors are staying in several small hotels and guest houses across the island.

The Notes claim that an offer to return them to their country is to be made. However, the Cabinet is already anticipating that many of the West Africans are likely to choose to stay, as has been reported.

Therefore, some arrangement is likely to be made to ensure that their status is legal, the Cabinet says.

Additionally, the circumstances under which the Antigua Airways flights were conceived and originated were examined by the Cabinet, according to this week’s Notes.

The Cabinet says it was expecting that the passengers who arrived here would have been well-off citizens of Nigeria and neighbouring countries who wished to travel to the Caribbean as tourists.

Reports are that a well-established carrier known as Air Peace had made a request to commence regular service between Nigeria and Antigua.  However, it chose to fly to Jamaica, instead, since the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) licence was taking a long time to come through.

On the other hand, Antigua Airways has been unable to meet some of the requirements of the ECCAA, which, reportedly, is one of the reasons that further flights from Africa have been suspended. 

Meanwhile, the Cabinet invited Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood and three senior officials from the Department to discuss the removal of work-permit requirements for nationals of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.

This was another of the United Progressive Party’s campaign promises that was hijacked by the Antigua Labour Party. 

However, a decision has been taken by the Cabinet that further discussions on the proposal are needed before it is implemented.

“After a thorough and intense examination and exposition, the Cabinet agreed that the CARICOM Treaty requirements will continue, including the six-month entry allowance for visitors from the CARICOM States,” the Notes say.

These discussions are to take place between the Legal Department of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and experts within the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Labour.

According to the Cabinet, its object is to ensure that all is done to make the process seamless and to fulfill the promise.