Prime Minister Gaston Browne has distanced himself from the illegal migrant saga, saying that it has nothing to do with him.
The Opposition has blamed the sinking of the La Belle Michelle on Tuesday squarely on the hands of the government, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Gaston Browne as leader of the country
The United Progressive Party has said that the Africans who perished when their boat capsized off the coast of St Kitts were the result of a bad deal between the government and Antigua Airways; a chartered flight that transported the West Africans here.
The UPP said in a statement that the blood of these Cameroonians is in the hands of the government.
But Browne said on his weekly radio program that, while he is sympathetic towards the rather heartbreaking matter, he shouldn’t be blamed for it
“Individuals are trying to suggest that we knew and blood is on our hands, they are just ignorant, arrogant, and stupid. They are just trying to capitalize on this very unfortunate situation in which people lost their lives”
“What that has to do with me? I don’t know these people. I never met them. I never had any engagement with anyone, any boat captain, or anyone who may have had arrangements with Africa. What does that have to do with my administration?” Browne said
The prime minister said his government has tried to assimilate the Africans who were left stranded in Antigua.
“What we did, however, is that we went the dignified way and we said that, look, notwithstanding the fact that there were so many of them, we said that we will assimilate them into the domestic society. But at the same time, we recognize that it is the first time in our history that we have had to deal with so many immigrants coming to the country on such short notice, especially external to the region,” Browne said.
All this comes as the International Organization of Migration, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are on the island conducting an assessment of the situation.
“I asked them for technical assistance to do a study to determine the needs of these immigrants and their skills, whether or not they have skills that we can utilize. And we have no doubt that a number of them have skills. My understanding is one of them is a very qualified nurse who went to SLBMC and I believe was employed and is now working or assigned to one of our renowned senior citizens who would have served this country very well,” PM Browne said.
He said the government has nothing to hide. “Now, evidently, if we had anything to hide, we would not be inviting reputable international organizations to come and deal with this issue. So this idea that there should be a commission of inquiry… the reality is, I believe at least 99% of the information is already in the public domain and perhaps all they need to do now is to corroborate the information that is already there. I don’t know if they’ll unearth anything else, but to date, no one has been able to come up with any information that any Antiguan at any level of the government was involved in any form of collusion with the African migrants or even those who may have helped to facilitate their travel from Africa to Antigua and Barbuda,” PM Browne added
Browne said his government cannot be in any trouble since it is the victim in the entire matter.