NEWSCO: They will not be afforded Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship, but the West African visitors who choose to remain in the country could be offered residency and work permits.
That confirmation came yesterday from Cabinet spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, as questions linger after the government’s previous announcement that the hundreds of Africans who arrived in the country on charter flights in recent months will 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 media during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
The Africans’ arrival and failure to leave, having initially come into the country as ‘tourists’, has stirred controversy over the past few weeks, with the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) even going as far as staging a protest outside the Office of the Prime Minister.
There is still no word on how many African refugees have decided to seek asylum in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Immigration Department has 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 that 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.