ST JOHN’S, Antigua, – More than a dozen nationals of Syria have been detained by law enforcement authorities here in what has been described as a major smuggling ring involving Cubans and Syrians.
A government spokesman said that sometime in May 2015, it was brought to the attention of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda that two smuggling rings exist in Antigua and Barbuda which aim to place citizens of Cuba and of the Syrian Republic onto US soil.
“Fourteen nationals of Syrian who entered Antigua lawfully have since made application for Asylum in Antigua and Barbuda,” Government Spokesman Lionel Hurst said.
“In order to ensure that no one flees the jurisdiction during this process, the 14 male Syrian citizens have been detained.”
The Cubans and Syrians have an interest in reaching US soil for the purpose of seeking asylum.
The smuggling rings took several of these people to the US Virgin Islands where once they arrive they seek asylum.
“When the Antigua and Barbuda Government was informed of the unlawful entries by the US Embassy a few months ago, immediate action was taken to ensure than Antigua and Barbuda could not and would not be used as a staging point for illegal entry into the USA,” Hurst said.
Last week former chairman of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Leon Chaku Symister revealed that Antigua & Barbuda had issued visa waivers to 53 Syrians.