#TurksandCaicos, May 30, 2018 – Providenciales – Apprehension of Illegal Migrants and Urgent Ongoing Efforts.
Good evening my fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, as the Ministry with responsibility for Border Control and Employment, I wish to acknowledge the frustration of our citizens in regards to the continued landings of illegal sloops and speed boats on our shores. We have seen videos and have heard voice recordings of private citizens who have apprehended illegal immigrants.
However, I must caution you that you should not put yourself in any compromising or dangerous situation that may result in you being harmed in any way. Law Enforcement Officers are trained in this work, and they are the ones who should be on the front lines.
Your Government recognizes that attacking this challenge of illegal migration must be a multifaceted approach and not only demands the action of the government, but those of our citizens as well. We continue to outline ways that you can help: do not harbour or employ undocumented individuals, report any information you have to 911, the Task Force or the Police depending on the nature of the offense.
Over the last two weeks, we had a Team in the Turks and Caicos, from the United Kingdom Border Enforcement Agency. This visit and further work was a spin off from the initiatives ignited by the Premier during the month of March when recognising our limited resources in the face of the unprecedented upsurge in sloop arrivals. She made a request to the UK for assistance. The immediate response was the helicopter and the RF Mount Bay which gave aerial and sea coverage for a period of time.
The Premier has outlined our strategy to the UK Minister and had requested the UK send a highly skilled Team of 5 for the past two weeks to assess the needs and to ascertain what else can be done between both Governments. The Team from the UK not only assisted our Officers in the finalization of their own strategy, but also identified available resources for us, such as training, equipment and other valuable connections. The Team left on Thursday past and the Premier received a report of their findings and recommendations which she welcomed.
Investigations continue into those who mastermind this reckless and irresponsible trade and who make a living out of the decimation of our country. There are also those who know the individuals behind this activity and you are encouraged to give information (anonymously if need be) so that these perpetrators may be caught and brought to justice.
The Ministry of Border Control and Employment would also like to caution persons on the hiring of illegal immigrants. This is a crime and our Enforcement Unit will seek to prosecute anyone found engaging in this act. In addition, the Ministry reiterates its caution issued to those in Turks and Caicos Islands that might be inclined to harbor illegal migrants. The penalties for harboring illegal migrants were increased, and such person now face a fine of $20,000 on summary conviction or to a term of imprisonment of four years, or both. In addition, persons convicted of such offence, face the possibility of having their status in the Islands revoked, making them liable to deportation.
We hear and continue to weigh the many suggestions being put forward by persons within the community and on social media. Over the next few days and weeks we intend to:
1. Meet with the Former Leaders of this country, all members of the House of Assembly, and representatives of the Clergy. In addition we are grateful for the many residents who have scheduled appointments with myself and the Premier to offer ideas, which were well received.
2. Impress upon the UK the urgency of granting approval to accept the generous offer made by the Bahamas to assist with patrolling our waters, even though the Bahamas are also experiencing the unprecedented increase in sloop arrivals. We believe it is critical to accept
3. Cease the extension of visas and temporary work permits with immediate effect.
4. Review trade with Haiti.
5. Write officially to Haiti’s President to advise of new steps taken.
6. Strengthen and continue our enforcement activities under Operation Guardian.
The issue of illegal immigration requires partnership with you, the people, and our regional and international partners. We see it as a matter of national security and as such our immediate and urgent attention and work will continue in this area.
May God continue to bless the Turks and Caicos Islands.