The government is making flight arrangements to repatriate West Africans who have been stranded in Antigua and Barbuda.
A flight from West Africa; not Antigua Airways-transported hundreds of Africans to Antigua late last year, leaving them stranded on the island, with some having no arrangement for accommodation.
Minister Melford Nicholas told the Cabinet press briefing that the government is mindful of the challenges that these men and women are facing and plans are underway to repatriate them
“It is recognized that there are several persons who had come on earlier flights who are still in Antigua and may need to be returned to their respective jurisdictions. We will have to arrange for an aircraft to arrive to take those persons who are here back home in the coming days and weeks,” told the weekly Cabinet briefing on Thursday morning.
The Cameroons have said publicly that they were tricked into believing that once they get into Antigua and Barbuda they would be able to get to the US.
Some of these men and women say they spent over $5000 to get to the island on the chartered flight.
Nicholas said the entire ordeal is sad and was not the intention of the government.
“To establish the commercial viability of the route, Antigua Airways had chosen to arrange chartered flights to the island and according to Nicholas, their efforts were imitated by another operator who arranged another charter outside of the knowledge of the government.
“Based on intelligence reports that we have, the objective of that other charter he said was to use Antigua as a stepping stone for persons going to other jurisdictions and that has been drawn to our attention and accordingly we have made a move to suspect the routes,” Nicholas said.
“As far as the persons who are transiting Antigua to other jurisdictions, our information is that they were heading to South America to get access to the United States. This was not the objective intention of the government…we would want to act in collaboration with our neighbors in the Caribbean….we have to do the responsible thing and curtail the use of the chartered flight” he said
All this comes as the cabinet has decided to place on hold, all chartered flights from Africa, saying that the airline had not complied fully with Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation rules.