The cabinet is meeting today and one of the matters that could be brought before the downsized body is a recommendation to end immediately, all dealings with entities responsible for flights transporting Africans to Antigua and Barbuda.
That request will be brought by Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin who told an interview with Dadli Media Pop Up that he will also suggest to the Cabinet that the matter be investigated thoroughly.
The matter, which has raised concerns about exploitation and possible human trafficking, has consumed public discussion and has been the subject of international news reports.
“My first day on the job I investigated the matter. I will now make the recommendation to the Cabinet. We will have a thorough investigation into this matter. I will protect the integrity of the country as long as I am Minister of Immigration,” Benjamin said.
To stimulate trade and investment between Antigua and Africa, the government embarked upon a venture with Antigua Airways, owned by Nigerian entrepreneur, Marvellous Mike Press Limited.
But since the first flight from Nigeria on November 1, the airline has been under serious scrutiny.
Many of those who arrived have come into the country without accommodation and no clear plan for employment or supporting themselves. The situation has caused anxiety for Antiguans and Barbudans and a lot of negativity on the regional and international scene.
“No official complaints have been made to me in my capacity as National Security Minister. When you mentioned human trafficking, I was shocked. That’s never been brought to me by the United States, by England, by Canada. No advanced country has written to us on this matter at all. You will have speculations perhaps, but no information has come to my desk as Minister of National Security,” Benjamin said.
Antigua Airways has been touted by the government as a major investment coup for Antigua and Barbuda, with the direct link to West Africa having the potential for significant economic benefit.
There were also long-term plans for the route from Lagos to Antigua to be followed by a route from Antigua to Canada before the carrier heads back to Nigeria.
The firm is also hoping to collaborate with LIAT, flying passengers north and south of Antigua who have come from West Africa on Antigua Airways.
Antigua Airways plans to operate a Boeing 767-300ER in a 16-business and 251- economy seating configuration.