#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos – Friday May 18, 2018 – Haitian Flag day is a huge celebration for the people of Haiti, wherever they are in the world, but in the Turks and Caicos this year, things are markedly different due to stricter immigration laws and enforcement. Border Control protocols in the TCI are amped-up because Haitians continue to illegally breach the borders between the two countries.
Haitians resident legally in Turks and Caicos assembled at the Haitian Consulate on Flag Day in a peaceful but potent protest to send a resounding message; that the government of Haiti needs to step-up efforts to control the outflow.
Udley Malcolm, Haitian resident and demonstrator said, “We all know this is Haitian Flag Day and usually in TCI we have a big celebration. As a Haitian origin, I am very proud. I love my brothers and sisters. Haiti is where I get my education, I have spent a lot of time in Haiti. We have nothing against our brothers and sisters but they are disturbing those who are here legally.”
The dozen Haitians taking part in the demonstration just yards away from the official Haitian office in Provo, have lived in these islands for years and say it is insensitive and senseless, in their minds, to celebrate while so many in Haiti are still suffering, even dying in their desperate attempts to break free of the poverty.
“Why would we celebrate this day if you are not happy with what is going on, how your brothers and sisters have been dying at the sea. How you gonna celebrate? We place the President and the Haitian parliament to do the job, to control the border, to help us…” Udley Malcolm, continued with, “… do the job so that we can be proud wherever we go, so that we can be proud as Haitians. But if they are not doing it, we are not going to celebrate. This is a call, do you job, do what you’re supposed to do so that when we come to Turks and Caicos, they can look at us as humans.”
Turks and Caicos Islanders are unapologetically frustrated at the cost to the country to capture, charge, detain and return home the Haitian people who mainly arrive by boat. The cost is quickly mounting to $5m in five years for the Turks and Caicos for repatriation of illegals, most of whom are Haitians. In the last week, there have been four illegal boats in five days. It is reported that Haitians sell everything to make the voyage and pay as much as $3,000USD per person and sometimes even bring on the potentially treacherous voyage infants and young children to escape the abject poverty which is depressing parts of Haiti.
“It is not looking good for yourself because when you are coming here, you are coming on the sloop most times we have a lot of incidents on the sea. A lot of people – brother and sisters – are out there dying. Some of them are selling their goods and whatever they have, they are seeking a better life, I understand that… When you come into Turks and Caicos illegally, there is a big chance you are going to get arrested and you are going to lose your money. The Turks and Caicos Islands community is not going to look at you as a person because you are disturbing the peace. Because it is their money that they are supposed to be investing in roads and education, they are investing in repatriation and they are not happy about it and that is the bottom line.”
In the last 12 months, at least four western hemispheric nations have clamped down hard on illegal migrants: The Bahamas, Canada, the Turks and Caicos and the United States.
Protest organizer, John Phillip-Fontaine was passionately vocal about the reason for the protest.
“We don’t want to celebrate, we just want to send a message to the Haitian Government to tell them take up their responsibility. We are tired of the illegal sloop. You need to control your borders so that we can have some respect in Turks and Caicos.”
Phillip-Fontaine spoke to the acrimony the illegal landings are causing between Haitians and Turks and Caicos Islanders, “We feel bad. We really feel bad. But for us to do something about it, we have to get the Haitian government to control the borders. They have people who have been here for years but they are suffering because of what is going on… so we are sending a message strong to the Haitian Government through the Haitian Consulate because we believe they are here to represent the Haitian government.”
The protestors explained that the Consulate is aware of the feelings of legal Haitians resident in the Turks and Caicos, but John Phillip-Fontaine said that it appears the sloop surge is getting worse. About a dozen boats from Haiti to TCI between March and May.
The Haitian Consulate office was today closed due to the Haitian public holiday of Flag Day; but the men say they are hoping their message goes out over media and gets back to the home country leaders to stem the flow of illegal migrants.
The demonstrators also want to see that living conditions are finally improved for the millions of Haitians subject to the unbearable conditions that make them sell all and risk all in the hope of a better life in someone else’s country.
“Our flag is losing its value, and to keep the value of the flag we have to sit down today, especially a day like today – May 18… We are not happy and we are telling the Turks and Caicos government to bear with us, give us some time… we will slow this thing down. We know human trafficking is a big business all over the world but we don’t need this to spoil our children’s future.”
The group said they were referring to both the children of the Turks and Caicos and their own.