Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle has added his voice to the call for a public inquiry into the Antigua Airways debacle and the allegations of the trafficking of West Africans.
Pringle made the call on Tuesday morning (February 7) as he joined hundreds of concerned citizens and residents in calling for the independent investigation during a picket of the Prime Minister’s Office on Queen Elizabeth Highway.
Pringle says that the United Progressive Party (UPP) has no issue with our West African brothers and sisters, but staged the action is to seek clarity from the Gaston Browne administration as to the current situation with the hundreds of the Antigua Airways visitors who remain on the island.
He says that it is not clear to the Party why three months after much pomp and fanfare for the inaugural flight on November 1, that flights have been suspended.
Pringle, the newly appointed political leader of the UPP, says that he sympathizes with the visitors since it could not have been easy for them to find the large sums of money to make the trip.
Some claimed to have spent over US$4,000 for their tickets and at least an additional US$2,000 in order to get to their final destination, now they have been left stranded here.
Many of the visitors say they were promised onward travel through Antiguan borders to the United States and South America.
The opposition leader says that these West Africans have no ties or knowledge of Antigua and Barbuda and have now been left to fend for themselves as many struggle to buy meals and to even pay for accommodation.
Pringle says that the Party will be writing to various regional and international agencies in order to ensure full cooperation from the government, which is yet to make any official public statement on the scandal. Prime Minister Browne has only been on his radio station denying certain allegations in reference to the issue.
According to Pringle, this is not an issue which the Opposition will fall asleep on and pressure will come to bear on the government for it to respect the people’s wish for a public inquiry.
Hundreds of West Africans remain in Antigua after being brought here through charter flights organized apparently by Antigua
Airways. The government is now contemplating regularizing their status.
Persons lined the sides of the roadway bearing placards calling on the Browne-led administration to put in place an inquiry and to reconsider the position to unilaterally legalize the status of the stranded passengers.