Franz deFreitas, the United Progressive Party (UPP) caretaker for St. John’s City South, says the West African migrant-trafficking situation was a disaster waiting to happen, as news about those lost in this morning’s boating disaster continues to come in.
Citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda awoke to the news on Wednesday morning (March 28) that at least one person was dead, over a dozen were missing and 15 had been rescued at sea after the vessel in which they were travelling sank.
The West Africans, many of whom are said to be Cameroonians, were allegedly on their way to St. Thomas, a United States Virgin Islands territory.
DeFreitas notes that it was the Gaston Browne Administration that approved the arrival of Antigua Airways, which chartered a EuroAtlantic flight to bring the West Africans here late last year.
DeFreitas notes, as well, that the Governor-General, Sir Rodney Williams, who sits as the representative of King Charles III, continues to refuse to ask any questions, or to commission a public inquiry, in order to determine how and under what pretext the West Africans were brought here.
He says the development has now reached the stage of being a debacle of international proportions.
The United Progressive Party (UPP) caretaker for St. John’s City South says this is not the first attempt at trafficking West Africans.
He says the first actually took place aboard a commercial flight out of Nigeria on November 1, 2022, and was sanctioned by the Browne Administration – and on subsequent flights that have left hundreds of Africans stranded here.
DeFreitas is curious to know whether the two international agencies – the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – which have been invited to investigate the situation of these migrants and compile a report are already on island.