Three people died after a boat that left Antigua capsized near the Island of St. Kitts on Tuesday, according to state-owned Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Services (ABS).
ABS said over a dozen people were missing.
The news outlet said that two Antiguans were among those rescued from the water by the St. Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard.
According to reports, the vessel left Antigua with 32 people on board.
In a statement expressing deep sorrow at the loss of life, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the boat, which left illegally for an unknown destination, capsized in the open sea.
“While reports are still sketchy, we understand that the majority of persons on board the vessel may be Africans,” Browne said.
He said they had arrived as tourists aiming to migrate to other countries.
“It is widely known that my Government has been making every effort to be helpful to these brothers and sisters from Africa who were marooned on Antigua, including by granting them residence and the opportunity to work. We have also been engaged with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration on the best ways of treating them as refugees,” the Prime Minister observed.
Browne said it seemed clear that the owners and operators of a vessel in Antigua and Barbuda facilitated the illegal journey.
And he promised a full investigation into the ‘unlawful and dreadful affair’.
Browne said the Government would offer refuge to the survivors, arrange burials for the dead and make every effort to contact their relatives.