The government has sought to clarify what it says has been a lot of misinformation in the public about the African migrants.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas said this week that the Africans, will not be granted citizenship but those who choose to remain here could be offered residency status and work permits
“Antiguan passport? No…I don’t think that that is on the cards, but certainly the whole idea of residency and work permits, that is part of the legal framework that we are considering,” Nicholas said.
Those from Cameroon, where there have been heavy fighting and instability said they would prefer not to return to their country under these circumstances, fearing that they could be killed or jailed.
Following cries not to be repatriated, the government decided to allow them to remain on the island, providing some form of legal status, a decision that has received major pushback from the main Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) which called for an inquiry into the matter.
Nicholas said however he isn’t convinced that consultation or inquiry would change anything.
“I don’t know to what end would a consultation change any of that. We should guard against being lulled into this idea of consultation. It’s an engagement to create political noise and we are not going to be caught up in that,” he said,
He said the government has asked the Immigration department to do a skills audit…”to determine whether or not we have some additional attendant benefits to be derived from some of these persons that are here,”
“As the economy continues to expand, we are going to need additional skills to be able to develop some of these projects and so, from the standpoint of having them integrate, and when we say integrate, we mean integrate to become a full part of our society, we are asking Antiguans and Barbudans as they have already begun to do on their own account to embrace and have an open heart in respect to this matter,” Nicholas added
637 of the more than 900 people who touched down between November and January remained in Antigua.