#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday July 26, 2018 – A serious bi-lateral discussion between the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas is on the horizon according to Premier, Hon Sharlene Robinson who today told media that the Governor has approved an official visit.
“On the matter of illegal migration, discussions with The Bahamas; the Governor this past week has issued the diplomatic note that would allow the high level TCI delegation to travel to The Bahamas to further this dialogue. Persons would recall that The Bahamas had agreed to assist with the patrolling of our waters and a letter of entrustment was requested by myself and the UK Minister who has graciously agreed to allow for the exploratory talks.”
The idea of a stronger alliance between the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas has been touted for years, including by the former Rufus Ewing Administration.
On Thursday, notes from the most recent Turks and Caicos Cabinet meeting reflected that the conversation is imminent between the two countries which share borders, waters, geography, history, family relations and more woefully, troubles brought by illegal fishing and illegal migration.
From the Cabinet report of July 25, 2018: “The Hon. Premier reported that the TCI Government would commence talks soon with the Government of the Bahamas on possible co-operation to tackle the problem of illegal sloops from Haiti. The Hon. Premier also reported that she had received the report of the UK Border Force delegation who had been in TCI recently to carry out an assessment of TCI’s needs to combat illegal migration. The recommendations in the report were currently under consideration but were broadly in line with existing TCIG’s thinking and several were already being implemented.”
In 2014, former governor Peter Beckingham travelled to The Bahamas where he met with the former Deputy Prime Minister, Philip Davis – acting Foreign Affairs Minister at the time.
The two leaders explained to media in July 2014 that policies were being formed to curb the issues with illegal migration from Haiti.
Mr. Beckingham, on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Islands, shared that: “We have put in a number of measures to try and get a tighter grip on the problem of illegal migration,” he said. “It is costing human lives and it is costing our government money. So for those reasons and others we want to do more about it. I can’t help feeling that if we can match up those two areas rather more there is an area for development. We believe that by meeting jointly with the government of Haiti there may be areas where we can exert some persuasion to encourage them to do more about the problem that they face and we face jointly. By showing that we are united in this enterprise and in this discussion we will underline the seriousness of this problem and the hope that we can do something about it.”
Soon the meeting of two nations became a tri-lateral caucus when it welcomed Haiti to the table. The session was expected to stem the flow of illegal boats loaded with migrants fleeing Haiti.
Whatever ideas were discussed have never been publicized or implemented. The meeting seems to have been a dud and the inundation of Haitians illegally to both the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas in subsequent years has not waned.
During his Budget presentation in July 2018, Deputy Premier and Border Control Minister, Sean Astwood announced that illegal migration activity surged by nearly 300% in the past fiscal period for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“Mr. Speaker, the battles we faced as a ministry, as a government and as a country, in my mind, were unprecedented. As a people, we endured the wrath of two major hurricanes and untold damages and displacements, and it appeared that our borders came under relentless attacks from the start of 2017.A total of 22 sloops and 1,335 persons were repatriated throughout the year. Mr. Speaker, this represents a 160% increase in sloops arrivals and a 270% increase in repatriations over the same period for 2016.Mr. Speaker, this was truly unprecedented.”
No date was given by Premier Robinson for the high-level, bi-lateral meeting in The Bahamas.