(OBSERVER)Government says a recent High Court decision in Trinidad and Tobago – which saw five Cameroonian refugees saved from imminent deportation – will enter its deliberation process as it seeks to present a solution to the public on the issue of individuals from West Africa who arrived two months ago.
The matter has been a sore point for the government following a decision to establish Antigua Airways airline with Nigeria-based entrepreneur, known as Marvelous Mike, which had been touted as a linkage between the African continent and the Caribbean region.
Governor General Sir Rodney Williams stated in Monday’s Throne Speech, “My government is committed to protecting all residents from exploitation and harsh treatment and would never have our West African brothers and sisters dwell illegally in the shadows; nor would we allow our kith and kin to be subjected to exploitation and harsh treatment by those who may seek to create victims.”
The Trinidad Guardian reported that Bertha Takem Oben Etchi, Achatie Magrate Affuelasong, Venessa Njeck Enjek, Humphrey Nche Ngangfor, and his son Bringsluck Fru Nche were granted an emergency injunction preventing their deportation last Tuesday, which was extended on Thursday by High Court Judge Carol Gobin.
The attorney for the group said that they were granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which played a significant role in the injunction extension.
The government here in Antigua and Barbuda said they were mindful of the case.
“My government is required to take this High Court decision into consideration, and the role of the UNHCR, prior to making its final decision,” the Governor General expressed on behalf of the government.
Chartered flights from West Africa were halted in late January following public scrutiny and concerns that another chartered airline was using the operations of Antigua Airways as a cover to traffic Cameroonians and other individuals into the country at exorbitant prices.
The government already expressed its intention to embrace those from West Africa, stating that arrangements would be made to ensure that their status is legal, with a report due to have been received by Attorney General and Immigration Minister Steadroy Benjamin last week outlining some of the potential solutions.
Meanwhile, the main Opposition, the United Progressive Party, organised a protest earlier this month calling for a public inquiry into the entire situation and for consultation on any decision by the government on the granting of any legal status.
Observer media has reported that several Cameroonians who arrived via the chartered flights have said they have fled their homeland in fear of death and initially sought passage to the United States and other countries for safe refuge.
Cameroon—especially in its Anglophonic region—has undergone a violent civil war between separatists and the military for around six years.
A Human Rights Watch report in 2021 stated that over 4,000 civilians have been killed, and over 712,000 people internally displaced in the Anglophone regions with at least 2.2 million people needing humanitarian aid.
The current crisis in Cameroon was ignited by a furore over the Cameroonian government’s heavy-handed approach to peaceful protests by unions representing teachers and attorneys in the country over a mandate for obligatory use of French in the region’s English-speaking schools and courts.