Antigua and Barbuda is standing firm on its decision not to accept the 14 Cameroonians, who are detained in St Kitts and Nevis after being rescued from a sinking boat in March, back into the country.
The government had previously said it would have accepted the West Africans once they are released from the custody of immigration officials on St Kitts and Nevis. But Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced the government was backtracking on the position because of fears they will attempt to leave Antigua and Barbuda again.
At yesterday’s post-cabinet media briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas explained the government’s U-turn came after some of the migrants and an Antiguan escaped from the confines of the St Peter’s Community Centre, which is located just outside the St Kitts and Nevis capital, Basseterre.
“If the persons, who were held in St Kitts, found a way to escape custody, clearly it was not with an intention of coming back to Antigua. So there seems to be an onward intent for them to continue to pursue entry into a US border,” he said.
Nicholas said the government does not want the Cameroonians to use “Antigua as a trans-migratory location”.
It will now be up to St Kitts and Nevis to repatriate the Cameroonians back home.
Nicholas said the government is continuing its assessment of the remaining West Africans in Antigua and Barbuda.
Once the assessment, which is being done in conjunction with the UNHCR and IMO is completed, a decision will be taken on who will be deported and who will be allowed to stay in Antigua.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health informed the cabinet on Wednesday that one of the Cameroonian women, who arrived in December 2022, will give birth to a baby in less than a week.