SKN Set To Return 14 West African Boat Disaster Survivors to A&B

Fourteen African migrants and two Antiguans were rescued by luxury yacht Genevieve (Photo courtesy Captain Thomas Auckland)
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

A&B Observer

The 14 surviving West Africans from the March 28 boat disaster will likely be returned into the community as the government makes plans to receive them from the St Kitts authorities.

Following the capsize of Guadeloupe-registered La Belle Michelle, which saw three people confirmed dead and 13 more presumed so, officials in St Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe, and Antigua and Barbuda have undertaken an investigation into the matter.

St Kitts and Nevis has reportedly ended its probe and intends to have the survivors, currently housed in the St Peter’s Community Centre just outside Basseterre, sent back to Antigua.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters on Thursday that the government will not house the smuggled migrants in a special facility, taking a humane approach to the incident.

“We have already given the undertaking that they would be allowed safe hospice in Antigua and we were already on the path towards giving them a legal means of becoming full residents,” he said.

While investigations have wrapped up in St Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda still continues its investigations into the ordeal with charges likely to be laid against the organisers of the trip.

However, Minister Nicholas did not specify what charges the two Antiguans, who were among those rescued from the stricken vessel, would likely face upon their return saying he “did not want to get ahead of investigations”.

The Antiguans sought to smuggle around 30 West Africans out of the country and into the US Virgin Islands – but whether Antiguan authorities have reached out to USVI officials to assist in finding out whether this tragic trip was an isolated case or part of a wider operation remains unclear.

Minister Nicholas explained that if investigators had felt they had sufficient evidence to show that the Antiguans had assistance in St Thomas, he expects that those communication lines would be opened.

“If the evidence leads to the USVI, I am sure that the teams looking at this are well equipped and have relations with counterpart agencies to create a full picture of what took place,” he noted.

Meanwhile, questions continue to be posed to the government on whether a commission of inquiry needs to be launched into the matter.

On Wednesday night, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) joined the growing number of persons – both locally and internationally – calling for an impartial investigation.

However, the Minister of Information expressed belief that his government has been transparent in the whole matter

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