#TurksandCaicos, April 24, 2018 – Providenciales – On July 26, 2017, I delivered a Ministerial Statement to the House of Assembly of the Turks and Caicos Islands on actions to be taken in the short to medium term to address the matter of illegal immigration.
Key points included in that speech were:
- With immediate effect, all persons who remained in the TCI on expired visas or permits were given 14 days to voluntarily leave our country and persons found illegally residing and/or working here after August 15th would be charged, deported, and added to the Stop List of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
- Any person, foreign or otherwise, found aiding and/or harbouring illegal migrants would be arrested, charged, and prosecuted under the law and their status reconsidered where necessary.
- I reminded companies that if they are employing illegal migrants, they should discontinue such practices to avoid being charged or their business disrupted.
- Public Servants, especially those charged with the protection of our people and our borders, were warned, that if found to be engaging in human smuggling they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
- Finally, that from August 7th until 30th September 2018, there would be a cease on the processing of visas, work permits, and other methods of entry for select nationalities while specific steps were taken to clean up our country and enforce our laws.
Much time has passed since that statement and while much work has been done, illegal immigration is a vexing problem which your government continues to address.
Here is a snapshot of our performance since July 2017 regarding our enforcement activities, including more recent challenges and outcomes. I cannot advance my report without stating the unfortunate experience of two significant hurricanes in 2017 and the impact of these Hurricanes on national priorities, including my planned immigration initiatives.
After the hurricanes, operations ceased for a period of time for humanitarian reasons. The resumption of both apprehension and repatriation exercises were critical elements in the Government’s comprehensive immigration policy.
Despite reduced operations and apprehension due to nature, 1,335 persons were repatriated in 2017 compared to 491 persons repatriated in 2016.
During the first quarter of 2018, 432 persons have been repatriated to several countries in the region and elsewhere.
I will now give a summary of recent activities:
During the Month of January, a total of four (4) sloops landed in Providenciales from Haiti, one in Five Cays area and three (3) in the North West Point Area.
During the Month of January 2018, the Immigration Enforcement Unit and Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police (RTCIPF) apprehended seventy (70) persons and repatriated sixty-six (66).
During the Month of February 2018, one sloop was apprehended by the Marine Branch while attempting to enter the TCI illegally. This incident resulted in eighty-three (83) males and fifteen (15) females being repatriated to Haiti.
Persons repatriated age ranged from 17 years to 43 years.
Noteworthy is that, Operation Guardian began on February 5, 2018. This joint operation included the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, Labour Officers, Planning, Business License, Environmental Health and the Immigration Department. Almost ten (10) business establishments were visited and inspections of employees undertaken. These actions resulted in several employees being removed from jobs as their working was contrary to the conditions on their status in the country.
In addition, District Inspections were conducted in the Five Cays Area, Blue Hills Area, Leeward Area, and Downtown Providenciales. These operations resulted in thirty-three (33) apprehension of persons residing in the Islands illegally.
During the month of February 2018, nine (9) persons were placed before the courts on charges such as unlawful entry, remaining in Islands beyond the permitted time, employing persons contrary to Immigration Ordinance and failing to comply with directions contrary to the Immigration Ordinance.
During February 2018, seven (7) persons were apprehended on Grand Turk and one (1) on North Caicos. They were all repatriated.
March was an unusual and challenging month in several ways. During the first two weeks of the month, there were five (5) illegal vessel landings. The high level of illegal vessel landing resulted in the Island receiving maritime assistance at the request of the Premier from the United Kingdom with the arrival of The Royal Navy ship, RFA Mounts Bay.
I would like to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for their assistance in this regard.
Operations in March 2018 were conducted with the RTCIPF in various areas of Providenciales included; Dock Yard, (Kew Town) Freddy Yard, (Leeward Highway) Snake Hill, (Blue Hills) Darka Yard, (Blue Hills) New Sub Division (Five Cays), main areas of Five Cays, Leeward Gates and job sites in the Leeward Area.
To mitigate against the number of undetected landings, special night patrols were conducted by Immigration and Police Officers.
During the Month of March 2018, the Immigration Enforcement Unit apprehended 343 persons and repatriated three hundred and two (302) persons to six (6) countries.
Operation Guardian continues and during the month of April two (2) significant operations were conducted. As a result, seventy-seven (77) persons have been apprehended and are being processed.
The laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands mandate that persons holding Work Permits must always be in possession of the same. Citizens are encouraged to carry, where possible, a Government issued identification as is done in many developed countries as there may be occasions when operations extend to the highway or transport systems.
Operation Libertad was conducted during the period April 3 – 9, 2018. This operation was an INTERPOL initiative led by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force and comprised a team from the Immigration Department. Contrary to reports, at no time was the operation led by a person or persons from INTERPOL.
Like any operation, intelligence gathering, and surveillance was undertaken in advance and proper search warrants were obtained.
We are all aware that persons are invariably attracted to these Islands because of an attractive earning currency, stable economy, and several other factors. However, intelligence also suggest that some migrants may be exploited sexually, domestically and through low paying jobs.
The objective of such operations is not only to bring the offenders to justice, but to also restore the dignity of the victim. It is intended that such operations will discourage persons involved in the activity of human trafficking and serve as a warning to those who have the desire to involve themselves in such activities.
Because of this special operation twenty-seven (27) persons were apprehended, detained for interviews and eventually twenty-five (25) persons were repatriated.
Operations, such as Libertad, have strategic benefit to the Turks and Caicos Islands as they aim to mitigate against national reputational fallout as it relates to human trafficking and from a humanitarian perspective to ensure protection of victims of human trafficking in accordance with the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Department of Immigration, Labour and Business Licensing have stepped up its “silent raids”, reviewing the files of businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrant workers and conducting worksite inspections. Enforcement officers can also be seen at construction sites. This type of operations will be intensified, and companies found in violation of the law will be sanctioned.
I again remind the private sector to cease the employment of any illegal person and regularize the category of employees (where necessary) to avoid being prosecuted. We must be a country that abide by the rule of law.
In a press statement on January 30, 2017, I reminded the public that it is an offence to assist or shelter illegal migrants and that the fine for such is $20,000 on summary conviction or a term of imprisonment. Some persons have heeded the warning while others continued to engage in such activities have felt the effects of their actions.
Persons who are here illegally are in contravention of the laws of Turks and Caicos Islands, and are advised to return to their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation.
I again implore all migrant workers to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are working or operating within the confines of the laws that govern immigration and labour. Whilst our Officers are expected to be fair and firm, the onus rest with you to ensure that you hold legal status within these Islands.
The onus is on you to have the relevant documents to verify your status, ensure that Work Permits renewals are submitted at least 90 days in advance of expiration, that you who are granted Visas and Temporary Work Permits operate within the stated terms of your visit privileges and time frames and that those who have agreed to provide surety and bond for visitors, that you undertake your obligations seriously and act upon accordingly.
Staff and Partners
I would like to register my thanks and appreciation to the Permanent Secretary and staff of the Ministry of Border Control and Employment and its Departments that I have been charged to lead.
My profound thanks and gratitude go to frontline staff in the fight on illegal immigration. I recognize your dedication and commitment to the challenging tasks that you undertake each day. I am aware that your role places you to the fore front and in the public’s eye. I implore you to be fair, transparent and diligent, but humane in the carrying out of your responsibilities.
We know your tasks are not easy and we are appreciative and thankful.
Special thanks to our constant partners, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. Your support makes our efforts easier, and we are appreciative for such.
|Haitian||55||44M 11F||62||43M 11F|
During the Month of February 2018, Immigration Enforcement Unit apprehended 30 persons and repatriated 26 persons.
|Haitian||14||11male 3 Females||15||12 Males 3Females|
|Dominican||9||7males 2 females||8||7males 1female|
Business Places inspected by Immigration and Labour Commission.
- Somewhere café
- Provo stevedoring
- Delicious Dishes
- Proverce Restaurant
- Shay Café
- Danny Bouys
- Business Design Image
- Genderly’s Salon
|Haitian||317||269 males 75 females||282||216 males 66 female|
|Dominican||19||14 male 5 females||16||11 male 5 female|
|Jamaican||3||2 male 1 female||1||1 female|
|Bulgarian||1||1 male||1||1 male|
|Iranian||2||2 male||2||2 male|
*Data not available at time of Press Release