After 10 Syrians applied to come to the country as refugees, Antigua & Barbuda has declared that it will no longer accept any refugees.
Government Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst told the media that Cabinet recently made the decision.
“Every sovereign state is free to determine who enters its borders and who doesn’t,” Hurst said.
He acknowledged that many countries around the world accept refugees from war-torn states, but, he said, Antigua & Barbuda would no longer be one of them.
“We have decided that since no countries in our hemisphere or in our sub region is in conflict and not having any kind of displacement we are not accepting any refugees at this time.”
However, Chief Immigration Officer Annette Mark told the media that Antigua & Barbuda is bound to review each request for refugee status individually.
“We have to do that because we are bound by the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees of 1951, so therefore we have to look at each case,” she said.
“The UN Convention is one that we have adopted by way of succession. When we were a colony and we gained Independence it would have been passed down to us, so we have certain obligations under it.”
While Mark could not say what the current process for examining refugee cases is, she said in previous years a committee made up of officials from the Red Cross, Foreign Affairs Ministry and other relevant bodies would vet each case.
She further said while she was unsure of the exact number of Syrian refugees seeking asylum here, the number was not an astronomical one.
Meanwhile, Hurst maintains that the country’s refusal to admit exiled or fleeing foreigners would not contravene any international conventions.