It was rather quite amusing to see He of a High Place downplay and whitewash the African migrant saga here in Antigua and Barbuda. He glossed over all the thorny and unsettling issues on the minds of the people, pooh-poohing them as, ‘nothing to see here.’ He ended his we-were-duped, but-they-are-here rant by saying that this administration has invited the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to look into the matter, and that the government will be seeking to assimilate the Africans into our society, and those Africans who wish to be repatriated, will be. Case closed, right?
Not so fast. The sad fact of this sordid matter is that the majority of Africans do not wish to be assimilated into Antiguan society. They left Africa with the intention of eventually making it to the United States of America. THEY WERE DUPED! Moreover, it would be interesting to know who were the financial beneficiaries of the duping of these Africans? They paid enormous sums of money to get here. This was supposed to be a transshipment point on to bigger and greener pastures. Antigua and Barbuda was not meant to be their home. So this new-found religion, this feigned humanitarianism on the part of this administration, seems a bit disingenuous. This supposedly gracious offer to grant the Africans the right to stay in Antigua and Barbuda is an ex-post facto attempt to gloss over the original intent by those who put this whole thing together. Which beggars the question: who will refund the Africans their hard-earned life savings? Or is that money lost, as so often happens in human trafficking situations? Ask the desperate people from Central and South America. Were there any persons in our fair State who knew from the outset that this was a fool’s errand on the part of the Africans?
Of course, there is no point in asking the stranded Africans if they wish to be repatriated. It is a well-known fact that that is the furthest thing from their minds. Returning them to Africa, especially to the Cameroons, would be exposing them to grave danger at the hands of the French-speaking majority in that country. Clearly, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Much like the thousands of migrants who pay human smugglers large sums of money to get from their poverty-stricken South American homelands to the United States. Many times, they are abandoned when the plans go awry, and left to fend for themselves just before they get to the American border. They are taken advantage of, many die.
Here’s hoping that the international bodies that have supposedly been invited by our authorities to look into this matter will ask the questions that are on the perplexed minds of Antiguans and Barbudans. The aforementioned IOM – is part of the United Nations as the leading inter-governmental organisation promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. What happened to the Africans here in Antigua and Barbuda is certainly not ‘humane’ or ‘orderly.’ Never mind that this administration is hastily trying to tidy the mess.
He of a High Place was quite emphatic that the Africans came here legally, blah, blah, blah. That is true, but we suggest that it was under a pretext. He of a High Place has been quick to mention that this matter has been referred to the UNHCR. All well and good. The thing is that we are not sure that the UNHCR is the body that will seek to get to the bottom of how and why the Africans got here in the first place. The UNHCR seeks to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge from violence, persecution, war or disaster in their homelands. True, there is persecution and a conflict in the Cameroons, but the Cameroonian migrants have said that in fleeing the upheaval at home, they were intent on reaching the United States, not Antigua and Barbuda. We are not sure what, if anything, the UNHCR will do about that flub that has left our African brothers and sisters stranded here. Sigh!
Meanwhile, the questions persist. Why was it supposedly so very easy for other charter flights bearing Africans to land on our shores and discharge them? Why was it so easy to dupe our immigration officials? Or rather, why were the immigration requirements relaxed for these supposed visitors who had no idea where they were staying, and on what country they were landing? What has become of Marvelous Mike, he of the famed printing press? What has become of others who facilitated this hare-brained fiasco? What has become of the glorious Antigua Airways? And what about those in high places who sang the HALLELUJAH CHORUS amidst the water cannon salute at the V C Bird International Airport on Independence Day last year?
Was this a scam? How much did we know about it? And what about the roughly ten passports that were given to African big-wigs in this trans-Atlantic scheme? And what about the twenty percent equity that we supposedly have in this fly-by-night Antigua Airways? And what about the much-ballyhooed collaboration between Antigua Airways and LIAT? And when will the bona fide ‘wealthy investors’ and ‘tourists’ begin arriving? After all, those who have come here thus far, are hardly wealthy, and certainly not tourists.
And what happens when the Africans who have been granted permission to stay bring their wives, girlfriends, parents and children? Can little Antigua truly assimilate this influx? Will this not be a significant added burden on our social services, our clinics and other health care services, and our schools? Is it so easy for calculating people to move a desperate group of people from one part of the world to another part, and the government of the day simply buries its head in the sand and proclaims a welcome with no questions asked? Huh? Just lacka dat? No questions to those folks in Africa as to their callous behavior in this matter?
Open sesame, eh? Just lacka dat. Never mind the pesky facts.
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