The main Opposition United Progressive Party issued a press release today Tuesday, calling for immediate answers from the Head of the Immigration Department and the Minister of National Security on what they say appears to be a “scandalous Antigua Airways Scheme”
The UPP said they have been informed about many irregularities and breaches of immigration procedures that have surrounded the three Antigua Airways charter flights.
According to the UPP, Antigua Airways flights were advertised as “Tour Package Travel to Antigua”, yet many arriving Nigerians did not have prearranged accommodation.
“Further, travelers who arrived at the Jolly Beach Resort a few days ago stated to reporters that they were not aware of the price of accommodation, which they could not afford at just USD 80 per night. Such a low all-inclusive price is a virtual giveaway, yet these “wealthy Nigerians”, as Gaston Browne called them, could not afford it,” the UPP said in their statement.
From our information, the passengers came in on Hi Fly/Hi Fly Malta flights.
Hi Fly is a Portuguese charter airline headquartered in Lisbon run by brothers Paulo and Carlos Mirpuri while Hi Fly Malta is a Maltese charter airline based at Malta International Airport and a subsidiary of the Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly.
Officials associated with Antigua Airways say it is not their airline.
But the UPP is convinced that the travelers are associated with Antigua Airways.
“Why were some of the Nigerian visitors allowed entry into the country without any declared accommodation? How could these visitors be granted visas on arrival when they had no accommodations booked?”
“Our brothers and sisters around the Caribbean are required to declare their accommodations on arrival in Antigua and Barbuda. Even Antiguans and Barbudans in the diaspora are required to fill out an address, on return to their homeland. Why was the requirement to declare accommodation waived in this case?”
“Reports indicate that of those visitors who declared their accommodations, many changed locations due to being unable to pay. What measures did the Immigration Department take to properly monitor the travelers as they deviated from their stated arrangements?”
The UPP says Government vehicles were seen to be transporting Nigerian travelers to various locations across the island.
“This is not consistent with what obtains when “tourists” visit our shores. What is the true nature of the Government’s involvement in the Antigua Airways Scheme? Why has the Department of Immigration and the Government remained silent in the face of such obvious irregularities and breaches surrounding the Antigua Airways scheme?”
The UPP says it is extremely concerned about the integrity of the country’s immigration system, “our national security, our tourism brand, and our international reputation”
They said concerns have already been raised about the possibility of human trafficking being at play in this situation.
“Our nation can ill-afford such negative international scrutiny at this time. We further unequivocally condemn what appears to be the callous politically-motivated exploitation of poor Nigerian travelers, who were misinformed about the arrangements of their trip, only to be left unable to afford accommodation and pulling suitcases behind them in the streets” the statement said.
All this comes as the Managing Director of Antigua Airways, Opeyemi Olorunfemi, said in an interview with Observer recently that his company is committed to providing quality service to customers, and was not a scam.