Antigua denies claim that passports being sold to Syrian refugees
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – The Antigua government is stoutly denying claims that its Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) is selling passports to Syrian refugees who end up in the US Virgin Islands (USVI).
The allegation was made in an article published on the online news portal Virgin Islands Free Press, quoting Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Congressman Michael McCaul.
However, the Antigua government hit back yesterday in a statement, saying that not only is the story “a complete fabrication and malicious”, but it falsely misrepresented remarks by the American Congressman.
“At no time did Congressman McCaul make any allegation that Antigua and Barbuda was clamoring to sell passports to Syrians to jump to the US,” it said.
The government acknowledged that several Syrian nationals had been detained by the Immigration authorities on suspicion that they might attempt to go to the USVI. However, it stressed, none of them had Antigua and Barbuda passports.
The Gaston Browne administration insisted that neither the governor nor CIP sell passports to anyone, far less refugees from Syria.
“The CIP and the citizenship programmes, like in every other democratic country, is regulated by law, namely the Citizenship by Investment Act of 2013. Citizenship is not granted unless due diligence takes place by internationally respected due diligence agents. This due diligence process has developed to include not only local and independent international due diligence providers, but also checks with other international bodies and Governments. Only after the due diligence is complete, are the applications sent to the Minister and Cabinet for final approval,” the government statement said.
“Importantly, Antigua and Barbuda Passports are presented to CIP qualifiers for an initial period of 5 years. Only during this time, any person granted citizenship under the CIP is subject to re-evaluation for cause, and revoked where necessary.”
The government also reacted to the suggestion in the article that it had put a price on its independence by embarking on the CIP.
Describing it as “nonsensical”, the statement added: “The nation of Antigua and Barbuda joined many other countries that have citizenship through investment programmes, including Canada, the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Malta as well as others in the Caribbean. These countries have not been accused of compromising their independence.”
The contentious article was published in another online publication, Mondaq, under the name of a different author.
The government statement alleged that the assault on the integrity of the CIP and the country was motivated by the “malice” of the writer who it claimed had attacked both United Progressive Party and Antigua Labour Party administrations.