UPP Demands Answers on Scandalous and Exploitative Antigua Airways Scheme

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The inaugural flight of Antigua Airways was welcomed by a water cannon salute as it touched down at the VC Bird International Airport on November 1st, the twin islands 41st anniversary of Independence. (Photo by Carlena Knight)
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The United Progressive Party (UPP) is calling for immediate answers from the Head of the Immigration Department and the Minister of National Security on the scandalous Antigua Airways Scheme.

We, like the general public, noted the many irregularities and breaches of immigration procedures which have surrounded the three Antigua Airways charter flights.

The Antigua Airways flights were advertised as “Tour Package Travel to Antigua”, yet many arriving Nigerians did not have prearranged accommodation.

Further, travelers who arrived at the Jolly Beach Resort stated to reporters that they were not aware of the price of accommodation, which they could not afford at just $80 USD per night.

Such a low all-inclusive price is a virtual giveaway, yet these “wealthy Nigerians”, as Gaston Browne called them, could not afford it.

The Gaston-led Government claims the travelers are tourists, yet several of the Nigerians have stated they are here looking for employment.

In light of these scandalous developments, we demand answers to the following questions:

1. Why were some of the Nigerian visitors allowed entry into the country without any declared accommodation?

2. How could these visitors be granted visas on arrival when they had no accommodations booked?

3. Our brothers and sisters around the Caribbean are required to declare their accommodations on arrival in Antigua and Barbuda. Even Antiguans and Barbudans in the diaspora are required to fill out an address, on return to their homeland. Why was the requirement to declare accommodation waived in this case?

4. Reports indicate that of those visitors who declared their accommodations, many changed locations due to being unable to pay. What measures did the Immigration Department take to properly monitor the travelers as they deviated from their stated arrangements?

5. Government vehicles were seen to be transporting Nigerian travelers to various locations across the island. This is not consistent with what obtains when “tourists” visit our shores. What is the true nature of the Government’s involvement in the Antigua Airways Scheme?

6. Why has the Department of Immigration and the Government remained silent in the face of such obvious irregularities and breaches surrounding the Antigua Airways scheme?

The United Progressive Party is extremely concerned about the integrity of our immigration system, our national security, our tourism brand and our international reputation.

Concerns have already been raised about the possibly of human trafficking being at play in this situation. Our nation can ill-afford such negative international scrutiny at this time.

We further unequivocally condemn what appears to be the callous politically-motivated exploitation of poor Nigerian travelers, who were misinformed about the arrangements of their trip, only to be left unable to afford accommodation and pulling suitcases behind them in the streets.

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