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Antigua Government monitoring deportation issue involving West Africans in Trinidad

Black Immigrant Daily News

The Antigua and Barbuda government is monitoring a High Court case in Trinidad and Tobago where a judge has temporarily blocked the Immigration Department from deporting five Cameroonians who arrived last November after fleeing their homeland, fearing they would be killed by military forces.

Last week Tuesday, Justice Carol Gobin granted the application to the lawyers representing the Africans less than four hours before they were to be placed on a flight to Panama and then back to Cameroon.

Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, delivering the traditional Throne speech at the opening of the new Parliament following the January 18 general election, said the Gaston Browne administration, which is dealing with a similar situation where hundreds of people from Cameron are stranded, is aware of the High Court ruling in Port of Spain.

“My government notes with interest, the decision of the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago less than a week ago to prevent the Trinidad and Tobago government from deporting the West Africans back to their homeland.

“My government further notes that the UNHCR, (UN Refugee Agency) played a significant role in stopping the deportations. My government is required to take the High Court decision into consideration and to the role of the UNHCR prior to making its final decision,” Sir Rodney said.

Earlier this month, following the weekly Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters the government had decided while West Africans will not be afforded Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship, those who choose to remain could be offered residency and work permits.

The government had previously announced that the hundreds of Africans who arrived in the country on charter flights in recent months would be allowed to remain.

“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 told the media.

Nicholas said the Immigration Department had been tasked with tracking down and investigating just how many of the Africans would like to be repatriated – as the government has also offered – or remain in the country. But, according to Nicholas, Cabinet has yet to receive an update.

He did however say for those who wish to stay, government will be looking at various options to ensure they do so legally while contributing to the country’s economic growth.

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Government had earlier this month said 637 of the more than 900 people who touched down between November and January remained in Antigua. Many of them are Cameroonians fleeing a bloody conflict back home.

The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) called for a Commission of Inquiry to determine if the authorities are engaged in human trafficking after supporters staged protest action against the government’s decision to legalize the status of hundreds of African migrants.

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