Antiguan PM Gaston Browne undoubtedly won the elections with a really thin margin. At that time, Browne announced the ‘One Caribbean act’ and promised it would be implemented soon. The said One Caribbean act was Gaston Browne’s guardian spirit in securing another bid for PM.
However now, Browne has taken a 180 degree turn on his promises. Behind this, his own former acts have played a major role.
The Announcement: One Caribbean act
In a remarkable shift, the Gaston Browne administration has announced that the implementation of its decision to eliminate work permit requirements for CARICOM and Dominican Republic nationals is not coming anytime soon.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas stated that further details needed to be sorted out before any implementation, so, the current plans for implementing the “One Caribbean” Act are shelved. The question arises why? Well, the African Migrant fiasco could be the major reason behind it.
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The African Migrant Fiasco
As per the government, arrangements are being made to assist West Africans who arrived in the country via chartered flights to gain legal status. The opposition and people of Antigua and Barbuda are protesting against these measures calling it a ‘scandal’.
Following the arrival of several flights from Nigeria, carrying passengers mainly from Nigeria and Cameroon, it was revealed that many of the visitors were not simple tourists but were seeking refuge from the civil war in Cameroon. The government said that 637 of the more than 900 people who touched down between November and January remained in Antigua.
In 2022, flights between Nigeria and Antigua and Barbuda started via a privately owned Nigerian firm. The Antiguan government also had a 20% stake in the airways. But, the Africans that came via flights turned out to be refugees of Cameroon and sought to seek refuge in Antigua and Barbuda. At first hand, people also protested against the measure and raised questions about the screening process.
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The news of Browne abandoning the plans for a “one Caribbean act” is truly depressing. It was supposed to bring hope and a sense of unity to the people of the Caribbean islands, but now, the sudden arrival of African migrants has left the natives feeling hopeless.
Browne’s decision to prioritize the legal status of the migrants over the needs of the locals has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. It’s difficult to comprehend how a leader could disregard the welfare of his own people in favor of outsiders.
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