We Are In the Dark: Distraught Relatives Seeking Answers on Boat Tragedy

Conflict has been raging in Cameroon for more than six years. It erupted when government forces cracked down on peaceful protests by Anglophone Cameroonians who say they face discrimination in the majority French-speaking nation (Photo courtesy Aspenia Online)
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A&B OBSERVER- Family members of passengers on board La Belle Michelle, which capsized on Tuesday in St Kitts waters, have been desperately seeking information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

They also want authorities to release the names of those who were found alive and those who have died.

The 30ft fishing vessel departed Antigua on Monday night, dangerously overcrowded with around 30 African migrants.

Fedelis Mofor, who lives in Germany, told Observer that his brother Verdo was among those on board.

He said when he last communicated with his brother in Antigua, he was told that he was leaving for the United States on Monday night.

He said he was quite aware that his sibling would have been travelling by boat and that the trip would have been risky.

“My brother left Cameroon on his way to the USA. So, he arrived in Antigua and he left yesterday on a boat which was supposed to take him to the USA, and I don’t know what happened.

“I am very concerned about him and whether he is dead or alive. I will be grateful, me and my family, if anyone knows anything about him, we would be grateful,” Mofor said.

Meanwhile, a woman from Cameroon is justifying the reasons why the Africans embarked on such a dangerous quest.

The woman confirmed that her family is still in Antigua and was not part of the deadly voyage.

She said the entire ordeal is troubling since her people are caught between a rock and a hard place.

“They don’t even have money to buy soda or biscuits. They are struggling to leave that place so that they can go to other areas.

“Where do we have jobs? That is the problem. It’s just terrible. Most of them went to the airport and they were not allowed to. Now they have decided to go through the sea. Now they died. They will still die in Antigua.

“Wouldn’t it have been better to deport them to go and die in their country than to die in the water? Help us and our children in Antigua. Help us. What trouble is this, oh God?” the emotional woman said.

La Belle Michelle capsized early Tuesday morning 12 nautical miles south of St Kitts, near the east coast village of Conaree, and around 40 nautical miles from Antigua. There were 32 persons on board, 16 of whom were rescued while three were confirmed dead.

There are still around 13 passengers unaccounted for.

Most of the passengers were African migrants, believed to have arrived in Antigua on charter flights from Nigeria between November and January.

La Belle Michelle, believed to have originated from one of the nearby French territories, was reportedly cleared by the Antigua Port Authority for travel to the US Virgin Island of St Thomas with its captain and two other persons.

However, the boat allegedly took a detour to Urlings on Antigua’s south-west coast. The Africans were apparently trying to get to St Thomas in a bid to ultimately reach the US mainland.

Last week, the government announced that it had reached out to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for assistance with the African migrants.

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