by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The United Nations (UN) is now involved in the case of the 14 Cameroonians currently on St. Kitts after being rescued off the coast of the island, having left Antigua for the US Virgin Island at the end of March 2023 says St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister.
According to the Prime Minister, UN officials are expected to assess the 14 and present that report to officials outlining the way forward.
“I went and visited them, the Cameroonians – for full disclosure – I wanted to know who they are. Why are they here? Interestingly enough, when I met them, they are well-educated people. I went in; I knew Cameroonians speak French and English… they are bilingual; not only that, there are teachers among them, lawyers, business people, there are IT specialists and so forth… the Cameroonians are professionals from what I picked up and what I gleaned… however I said that we would get the United Nations involved. The United Nations is now involved, and they are going to start their own assessment, and from their assessment, they will give us a report and then based on the report, we will take our final action.” – Prime Minister Hon. Dr Terrance Drew made those remarks during the May 11 broadcast of the Roundtable; A Special Interview with the Prime Minister.
Dr. Drew also shared that the bodies of the three bodies recovered from the ocean while rescue operations were underway for 32 individuals have still not been claimed by family.
“There are three bodies here from those who died. I have said to them that if nobody claims the bodies – and we asked the UN to help us to see if there are any family members in the United States who can claim the bodies. We will find out what their religion is; if they are Muslim, we will get a Muslim Imam to come in and bury them. If there are Christians, then we are a Christian Society; we will get a Pastor to bury them. But we will make sure they are buried with the greatest of respect and in accordance with the religion they practice… When the UN gives us the assessment, we will know who they are, the religion they practice and give them a burial that is fitting of a human. We are civilised people, and irrespective of all the human trafficking issues, we as civilised people.”
The 14 individuals were set to be repatriated to Antigua and Barbuda, their last port of legal entry. However, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne said it would be ill-advised to have them sent back to his country, saying, “Why bring them back when they are likely to smuggle out of the country again.”
Browne said the challenge was that some people claimed that sending them back to Cameroon would likely result in their death. The Antiguan Prime Minister said that he asked the French ambassador for assistance from France to get the Cameroonians back to their native land.
In April, nine of the 16 detainees escaped the detention facility, with all but one, Nicolas Santana Areche, back in police custody. Areche, a citizen of Antigua and a Dominican Republic native, is still missing.