Immigration authorities reportedly have instructed officers not to accept any more West African visitors, following the latest round of deportations on account of false travel documents.
Trusted sources tell REAL News that five West Africans were returned from Guyana after authorities there discovered they had entered the country on fake Cameroonian passports.
It is alleged that the group left Antigua on March 12 aboard a Caribbean Airlines flight, BW458 – traveling on legitimate passports – but presented the fake documents upon arrival at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana.
Accordingly, at least four of them were returned to Antigua the same day, on the return flight, BW459. It is not known whether the fifth passenger was allowed to transit Guyana and continue his journey or deported on a later flight.
The sources claim the fake Cameroonian passports were obtained right here, in Antigua, where there appears to be a “ring” providing the illegal documents.
They also confirmed to our Newsroom that not one of the returned West Africans was processed or held at the Immigration Department’s Detention Centre. Rather, they were released directly from the V.C. Bird International Airport, insiders say.
Asked why the matter has been kept secret, the sources say it is because the Government was embarrassed – yet again.
They recall that, on another occasion, several West African visitors had been detained at the centre after they were returned from Trinidad under similar circumstances – this time involving the use of false Ghanaian documents.
In that instance, they were held at the Detention Centre for about a week, without being taken before the court, our sources say. However, they add, these persons were let go on the instruction of a government minister, who said the matter was being investigated.
To date, however, no further action has been taken in this “criminal matter,” they note, and the alleged offenders were “released back into the society.”
It is widely known that Antigua and Barbuda was meant to be a stop-over on the visitors’ journey, and that most of them were heading to South America, then onward to the United States via Mexico.
With this information being widely shared across the region and further afield, the sources are worried that it will affect the ability of Antigua and Barbuda citizens to travel to the United States. They note that, in 2017, out of security concerns, Canada canceled visa-free access for persons carrying local passports.
They are concerned, too, that the West Africans’ efforts are being facilitated by two travel agencies, in particular, with several persons asking why the authorities are not investigating these businesses.