We understand that the following has been printed in the African news media (link here). It was sent to us by the author with a request to print it on this side of the Atlantic. No problem. It is printed as received with no changes at all…
STRANDED WEST AFRIKANS VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
Tuesday morning, April 7th 2008,a press conference was held at the Israel Lovell Foundation, My Lord’s Hill, to plead the case for more than 96 West Afrikans stranded in Barbados since February 15th 2008, when their chartered flight did not return to collect them.
The men and women had come originally to Barbados; some wanting to experience the cultural delights of the Trinidad carnival and others had other missions of trade, youth development conferences and just the opportunity to visit family and friends.
It is now more than two months that they are waiting for some resolution to the issue of return home. Most are still fending for themselves; paying rent or being supported by Barbadian families. Some members of the group however are struggling and not eating adequately and are being threatened with eviction. To this end the press conference was held to highlight their need for assistance.
However, the government of Barbados seemed to have a different idea as to why the West Afrikans were here and have chosen to criminalize the stranded with the arrest and interment at the military base Paragon in Christ Church, of 30 people, who reported to immigration as requested Tuesday morning at 10 am. Nothing has been heard from them since, their possessions have not been collected, and there is still no word as to their status.
A local Pan Afrikan organization, the Global Afrikan Congress, has been offering support to some individuals throughout their stay and are outraged at the treatment of these human beings, who have committed no offenses worthy of being treated in this manner. When a delegation, including legal representation, asked to see the people held at Parragon, they were refused access.
It is understandable that the government, with a view to providing a plane for them to return home, would want to have all those in need in a central location, however it is not acceptable that these people be kept against their will. They should be free to come and go. Those who are comfortable with family and friends should be allowed to stay there until news of the planes departure is known.
The lack of transparency and sensitivity by some of the newly elected ministers to this issue is of grave concern to this citizen of Barbados. Even if these people were victims of human trafficking as claimed the United Nations, to which Barbados is a signatory, is explicit on the treatment of victims of it and imprisonment, without recourse to access and support, is a violation of their human rights.
I urge all right thinking people of the world to make their displeasure and disgust at this situation be known, and the governments’ orders to silence the press on this issues needs to be counteracted.
The West Afrikans who are stranded here, even if they were victims of or willing participants in, the search for a better life, still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The fact that many who came are well established business people, journalists, students with families and wealth in their own country, would not choose Barbados, an island, as place to try and escape from. They’re not stupid.
There are members of the stranded who have visas to other countries and money to get themselves there and back home, however immigration is refusing to stamp their passports with the extensions needed(after the initial two week visit expired), so they can travel onwards legitimately. One brother had a visa and ticket for Cuba and was refused exit from Barbados. His USD$850 is down the drain.
Another sister returned from Trinidad after the initial flight was due to have left, and has been held, for 4 weeks with no contact with her family or friends, a rumor has spread that she had been raped. There are over 50 West Afrikan people in Trinidad who are now afraid to return to Barbados because of this situation. Some of these people have lost jobs back in Afrika and missing their children’s birthdays and life. Some have become sick on this slave diet of rice, which they are not accustomed to eating. Another sister had complications with her pregnancy and so much begging had to be done so she could get medical treatment.
If this had been a plane load of white people stranded, we know The government BTA, any other bandwagon jumper would be bending over backwards to assist with hotel accommodation, tours etc, until a flight could be procured for them, and you know they would not be here no damn two months later.
If Barbados does not grant these people extensions and legalize their status here, it will be impossible for some of them to ever travel again, with an overstay stamp in their passport. It is not their fault that they became stranded. I have travelled to Afrika, Ghana in particularly on many occasions and I can say without a doubt that if this situation was reversed they would never treat us in this manner. From the richest to the poorest, there is the upmost respect for us visitors, regardless of your colour.
So come on people stand up and shout outrage at this issue, and use whatever means you have to publicize this situation, so that we can let our brothers and sisters remain free.
Even whilst the replica slave ship “Amistad”, is being ‘celebrated’ in these shores, we are not learning from our history?
(author’s name withheld by request)