Home » News: 32 Africans dumped in Antigua by a Travel Agent in a ‘Japa’ scam involved in Boat Mishap with 3 dead and many missing

News: 32 Africans dumped in Antigua by a Travel Agent in a ‘Japa’ scam involved in Boat Mishap with 3 dead and many missing

by Atqnews
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Antigua

Many People seeking greener pastures in America through Antigua were marooned in a sea accident as 32 Africans were involved in a boat mishap enroute to US Virgin Island

There are indications that the Africans mostly Cameroonians and some Nigerians who were dumped by a travel agent on the Island of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbeans might have been involved in the boat mishap which claimed the lives of three Africans.

According to antiguanewsroom.com, the Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne has said the country will commence a full investigation to unravel the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident, following the death of the three Africans on a boat that capsized in the open see.

READ: Aviation: Caribbean Carrier, Antigua Airways set for Launch, plans West African Operations in partnership with Nigerian investors

Gaston Browne in a statement said the boat which capsized some 12 miles (19 km) south of St. Kitts’ Conaree village, left Antigua and Barbuda illegally with 32 passengers aboard.

“On behalf of my government and myself, I express deep sorrow at the loss of life and distress suffered by persons aboard a vessel which left Antigua and Barbuda illegally earlier today, Tuesday 28 March for an unknown destination, and which capsized in the open sea.

READ: Africa: Nigerian Investors bid for 75% shares of Caribbean Carrier, LIAT as regional stakeholder kick against majority stakes in the hand of foreigners

“While reports are still sketchy, we understand that the majority of persons on board the vessel may be Africans who were part of those who arrived here as tourists but with the intention of migrating to other countries.

“It is widely known that my Government has been making every effort to be helpful to these brothers and sisters from Africa who were marooned on Antigua, including by granting them residence and the opportunity to work.

“We have also been engaged with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Organisation for  Migration on the best ways of treating them as refugees.

READ: Aviation: Antigua Airways is ‘promoting Africa-Caribbean linkages’ says MD, Olorunfemi

“Two things appear clear from today’s tragic events.

“The first is that the Africans on board the vessel wanted to leave Antigua and Barbuda for another country.

“The second is that the owners and operators of a vessel in Antigua and Barbuda facilitated their transport on an illegal journey.

“My government will launch a full investigation into the circumstances of this unlawful and dreadful affair, including the involvement of any citizens and residents.

“We will also uphold our international obligations against human trafficking and illegal migration by strengthening our domestic institutions and enhancing our cooperation with regional and hemispheric partners.

“In the meantime, my government will also continue to offer refuge in Antigua and Barbuda to the survivors of today’s events, and we will make appropriate arrangements for the burial of the deceased.

“We will also make every effort to contact their relatives to advise them of this heart-breaking tragedy.

“We appeal to the Africans, who are in Antigua and Barbuda, not to be tempted into any schemes such as happened today, but to work with the Government, through our Immigration authorities, to help find acceptable solutions to their circumstances.

“All of the facts surrounding today’s calamity are not yet known.

“However, I know that we all want to understand what occurred and to take action to ensure it does not happen again.

“My Government will further advise of all these circumstances as soon as we receive more and better particulars.”

It will be recalled that in 2022 Antigua and Nigeria planned to  partner on tourism. The project was initiated by the Nigerian Antigua Chamber of Commerce.

This is according to a report in punchng.com, the Nigeria-Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce, offered Nigerians tour opportunities to Antigua and Barbuda, to grow tourism between both countries.

This is in collaboration with Airfield Travels and the Government of Antigua, to offer the Nigerian people a five-day tour of ‘Paradise on Earth! A Twin Island of vast opportunities.

While calling on Nigerians to come and fly with them to Antigua and Barbuda, an Island with 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, Airfield noted that the trip offers people, Government-to-business and business-to-business connections, in addition to fun.

In a statement made available to the Sunday PUNCH, Airfield said, “It is one of the world’s most desirable destinations for tourism, business, and investment. Flight fare, visa fee, and hotel bills are all-inclusive”.

It stated that the departure date is October 31, 2022, from Lagos while the return date is November 6, 2022. Antigua and Barbuda is an independent commonwealth country comprising its two namesake islands and several smaller ones. It is positioned where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet, it is also known for reef-lined beaches, rainforests, and resorts.

Another report said that this inaugural flight of Antigua Airways brought 130 Nigerians to Antigua.  A look through the manifest showed that only 3 Nigerians were on the list. The others were mainly from French speaking Cameroon.  The list includes persons from Uganda, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone with about 15 passengers from Bangladesh.  These people were passed off as Nigerians and the flight as a link from Nigeria to the Caribbeans.

It is said that three flights have been operated already to the Island, with two flights in December and one in November. The first flight was in November 1st.

It is also reported that these Nigerians travelling to the country might not have met immigration requirement, but that was debunked by the Antiguan Government.

According to caribbean.loopnews.com, the Immigration Department denied accusations made by the main opposition, United Progressive Party (UPP) concerning charter flights from Nigeria, insisting that all the passengers who were allowed into Antigua and Barbuda, satisfied all entry requirements.

In a statement, the UPP questioned why the Immigration Department has remained silent in the face of what it called “obvious irregularities” regarding the charter flights and that “government vehicles were seen to be transporting Nigerian travellers to various locations”.

But in a statement, the Immigration Department said all of the passengers on the charter flights from Nigeria, who were granted entry to Antigua and Barbuda, satisfied all entry requirements, including declarations of their places of accommodation.

It said they were, therefore, granted visas on arrival, a procedure for which the law provides, and that are applied in the cases of many visitors from other countries.

The Immigration Department said it wanted to make it clear that the requirement “to declare their places of accommodation was not waived as claimed” by the opposition party.

Further, the Immigration Department said it is not aware that any of the visitors changed their declared places of accommodation.

“In any event, changing the place of accommodation is not a crime, nor does it mean that the visitor cannot be traced if the necessity arises.  The Immigration Department is now in possession of the biometric data of all of them.  Therefore, this statement from the UPP is unnecessarily accusatory and alarmist.”

The Immigration Department added that while it is not the business of the Department to track the means by which visitors are transported from the airport, inquiries were made of airport security and customs officials, and it turned out that a Nigerian, who has been working at the Agriculture Ministry, and who is assigned a government vehicle to carry out his duties, did meet friends from a plane on Monday night.

The Immigration Department said it wanted to assure the public that there were no irregularities whatsoever; so much so that the Government collected EC$25,000 in visa fees from the passengers on Monday night’s charter.

It said further, many of these passengers are booked on onward flights to other destinations in the Caribbean, and full records have been maintained of their biometric details. Should any of them attempt to remain in Antigua and Barbuda illegally, they will be easily picked up and deported.

“We assure the public that our vigilance is maintained to protect our country as we are obliged to do,” the Immigration Department added.

It is being rumoured among leading Tour Operators in Nigeria that the project originated from People outside the Tourism Industry through some agents in Abuja.

It is also been said that another charter similar to earlier flight is being Packaged

HOW IT HAPPENED

According to antiguanewsroom.com, three bodies are said to have been recovered and around 15 people rescued.

The 30ft vessel with two outboard engines is believed to have been dangerously overcrowded.

Reports say that it was en route to St Thomas.

It was spotted capsized with people clinging to the hull by a passing luxury sail boat which lent immediate assistance.

The boat is around 12 nautical miles off the coast of St Kitts.

SEARCH AND RESCUE UNDERWAY

A boat allegedly carrying around 32 passengers from Antigua to another Caribbean island is believed to have capsized early this morning.

A spokesman for the Antigua and Barbuda Coastguard confirmed they were monitoring the situation following the incident said to have happened shortly after midnight

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