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TCI: Deputy Speech at Signing of MOU – Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)

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#Providenciales, November 20, 2018 – Turks and Caicos – H.E the Governor, Madam Premier, Ministerial and Cabinet Colleagues, Officials of the Ministry of Border Control and Employment, Staff of the Immigration Department and the Press, good morning and welcome to this ceremony.

Ladies and gentlemen, on May 24, 2017, I commenced this initiative by signing the initial MOU between the USA and TCI making the Turks & Caicos Islands the first CARICOM associate member country amongst the six British Overseas Territories to sign on to the Advanced Passenger Information System, commonly referred to as APIS.

At the 2017 signing ceremony I remarked that that the signing marked an historic occasion as the Turks and Caicos Islands embarked on a path of modernizing our border security regime through the cooperation agreement between the United States of America and the Caribbean counterparts.”

The US ambassador also explained that by adopting APIS, countries would be better able to secure their airports and ports which leads them to enhancing regional security.

The signing today of this Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Turks and Caicos Islands signifies the culmination of the path to officially joining our regional counterparts in the introduction of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). With the signing of this MOU, the United Kingdom Government formally grants consent to the TCI for the sharing of intelligence among Member States of the Caribbean Community.

This morning, I am proud again to state that the signing of this memorandum is a significant and important step to achieving and realizing the full implementation in the APIS in the Turks and Caicos Islands and by extension improved security for our region.

For the benefit of persons present today and the media, APIS is an automated system established for aviation and maritime operators. It has the capability of enhancing border security over the region by supplying law enforcement officers with data on passengers and crew members prior to arrival and departure from CARICOM member states, United Kingdom, United States and Canada. This system was established by the US Customs Border Protection agency (CBP) in May 2009.

I am sure the most common question would be, what TCI will derive from APIS.

The main contribution of APIS to our border management are:

  • Prior to departure, law enforcement officials can know in advance whether potential or known offenders or inadmissible persons are travelling.

This not only provides us and our partners with adequate time to utilize our resources more efficiently, but              also helps to reduce workload through the use of technology and automated means.

 

  • The TCI capabilities for transmission of passenger details to the point of destination well in advance of the passengers’ arrival is a very positive step towards achieving both facilitation and compliance goals.

 

  • Advance Passenger Information System, will involve capturing a passenger’s biographic data and other flight details by the carrier prior to departure and the transmission of the details by electronic means to the Border Agencies in the destination country.

 

  • The TCI hopes to use APIS as a decision-making tool that Immigration and Customs primarily can employ before a passenger is permitted to board an aircraft. Once passengers are cleared for boarding, details are then sent to the Agencies for screening against additional databases and can identify passengers and crew of interest.

Ladies and gentlemen, APIS has the potential to considerably reduce inconvenience and delays experienced by passengers as a result of border processing. It will contribute to more efficient passenger facilitation by allowing border control officers, (Police, Immigration, Security and Customs Officers) to focus on high-risk individuals, thereby allowing for a faster throughput of low risk travellers when undergoing arrival formalities. This would add value to processing of our tourist and allow us to maximize use of staff at the airport in particular and improve guests experience.

As part of preparation to get to this stage today several key actions have taken place. Legislations has been enacted in 2017, training and consultation was undertaken in February 2018 with internal and external partners and stakeholders. The training/workshops included the Police, Immigration Department, Airports Authority, Computer Department, Customs, Maritime and Ports Authority. External partners that have been consulted and participated in training include Marina operators, Cruise lines, Airlines, shipping companies (air and sea), freight forwarders etc.

The workshops which were facilitated by the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC) made use of the international best practices and standards highlighted above, as well as the Passenger Data Toolkit of the International Air Transport Association. JRCC are the regional managers of APIS, based on Barbados.

The ultimate goal of these national workshops was to design a Road Map indicating the main steps to follow to move towards an API-enabled environment. In addition, the workshops provided participants with a thorough understanding of the functions and benefits of APIS and brought together all relevant national stakeholders in the field of aviation security in order to promote cooperation and synergies as they implement an API system.

Increase in tourism over the past decade has impacted the manner in which passengers travelling on international flights are processed. What is even more challenging is that in the TCI we anticipate even greater growth with the demand for larger aircraft and associated demand on inspection processes during peak arrival and departure times.

You are probably also aware of increases in international terrorism, drug smuggling and serious crimes and associated security and the threat posed. These threats are not only akin to the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police and Immigration, but also by the carriers and airport operators. Drug smuggling by passengers is a substantial part of the problem even in the region. Additional security checks/risk assessments on passengers prior to departure have added considerably to the time required for the check-in process as we are all acquainted with the long lines, and thorough checks by TSA prior to departure from Miami. These are often adjusted due to changing risks factors. You see, threats from terrorism is real and no country is immune. The increased compliance risk posed by passengers has meant that border protection agencies have had to be more vigilant and more intensive in our processing of this type of traffic.

There are a variety of Border Control Agencies in place at the Providenciales International Airport. These include Customs, Immigration, Police, Health and Safety, Agriculture etc. The level of cooperation between these Agencies varies from place to place. Different agencies frequently operate their own automated systems for passenger processing without any sharing of information. The strict division of responsibilities between the agencies means that passenger processing is often unnecessarily prolonged. APIS will bridge and consolidate critical information that can be shared between agencies.

In terms of Border Control Agency response, it has become obvious that the routine examination of all passengers and their possessions is no longer a suitable way of processing the ever-increasing passenger numbers. Emphasis has shifted from a high percentage of passenger examinations, to a more selective approach based on risk assessment, intelligence, behavioural patterns, etc., as well as randomly applied inspection processes e.g Red/Green Line in Customs. It is now well recognized that such an approach yields significantly better results, proportionate to the manpower employed, than purely random or intensive examination. Again, APIS would complement this process.

APIS can easily facilitate pre-clearance of flights treating some flight as domestic flights thereby alleviating some of the pressure at the arrival airport, and enable more prudent use of critical staff elsewhere.

Although the level of co-operation between the various Border Agencies has improved in recent years in the TCI, more can be done to rationalize procedures, save on manpower and other resources, and facilitate passengers.

Such cooperation will result in the clearance process for passengers being reduced in complexity to the level where a lesser number of Immigration or Customs will be able to process the vast majority of arriving passengers. It is envisage that the Officers, representing the various interested agencies, would be tasked with conducting a primary inspection of each arriving passenger, and referring those requiring additional examination to the appropriate service. In addition, with increasing inter-agency co-operation, the case for the development of single interagency automated systems, serving the needs of two or more agencies is possible in the short run.

APISs introduction will monitor persons for flight and assist border agencies to identify potential or likely offenders.

The Ministry, Immigration department, Computer Department and others will continue to work with the JRCC in the physical introduction of APIS within the new year.

In short this is a great initiative and we look forward to updating the public on its advancement.

I would like to take this opportunity to thanks the Government, Cabinet and my colleagues, Ministry and Department Staff, regional bodies including IMPAC, JRCC and United Kingdom Government for the assistance and support in advancing this significant project.

Thank you.

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Build more prisons or invest in a Technical Vocational School?

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#TurksandCaicos, October 26, 2021What could be more rewarding for a small developing country like the Turks and Caicos Islands, other then creating additional educational opportunities for their citizens? 

In my opinion, it’s the latter of the two, but it’s yours to ponder.

What’s troubling is, at the rate of incarceration, our prison system in the Turks and Caicos Islands could soon be at capacity.

With that being a real possibility, what are some of the proactive steps currently being taken to help secure post-released employment and or participate in education and life skills training?

Many of our young men may not have any interest in attending college or university, but has acquired other skills over the years. So, what other opportunities do we have for this segment of the population in terms of further education or trade?

Look around the country, you will find most of our workforce revolves around the service and trade related industry. Many of these workers posses untapped skills that only need to be cultivated in their area of interest or expertise.

With that in mind, offering vocational education will allow students and young adults to gain the necessary practical experience with a renewed focus in their chosen field of study or career path. This is something they may have otherwise never been able to achieve through traditional classroom learning in academia.

In the 2021 PNP manifesto under education, labor and employment, it clearly states their commitment to the following:

“Create learning opportunities for students that caters to different interest, strengths and learning needs as well as provide the diverse skills that the country requires”.

Henceforth, it’s my belief government should make further provisions to subsidize apprenticeships for our young people, so it becomes more then just platitudes.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, the previous administration was on the right track when a proposal was made to launch a vocational technical school. Unfortunately, the current pandemic may have hampered those efforts. 

Nevertheless, the idea was brilliant, and this current administration should continue to embark on this initiative and see that it materializes.

This initiative should move forward, even if it means using the leverage of our BBB+ credit rating borrowing power while we are in the position to do so. It is my belief the return on investment could be priceless.

Often times, countries mimic each other with strategies to tackle or improve different situations, but mass incarceration should not be one of them.

Yes indeed, proper facilities are needed to house and secure those committing heneous crimes.

Nevertheless, if we have learned anything from a developed country like the United States in particular, which has the highest incarceration rate per capita, we can not arrest or incarcerate our way to crime reduction.

If anything, it should be a motivation to galvanise prison reform and readdress certain issues to help reduce the prison recidivism rate.

We should be very careful with what strategies we mimic without doing our own comprehensive studies to determine the societal impact or long term benefits of an initiative.

Given the population of Providenciales, it would be the ideal location for such school. 

However, the existing infrastructure in Grand Turk, which is currently being utilized as a community college could also suffice. 

With the separate workshops already in place, along with some much needed renovations, this location would make an easy transition for maybe two or three training classes.

It would be in the best interest of our country as well as big corporations, to support such initiative. 

Case in point: Prior to the pandemic, every year a foreign company was hired to come in to train and certify our boat operators on primarily international boating standards.

Depending on the location and whether it’s a recertification or a new certification, the cost could range anywhere from $360-$650 per person, in addition to travel and hotel accommodations.

With TCI having some of the best and brightest boat captains, could this be a customized curriculum or certification offered at a trade school?

This particular curriculum should include but not limited to, local regulations best practices and navigational charts for local waters to help mariners better understand the skills they are learning. 

This could also be a joint effort between the school, DECR and Maritime departments with qualified personnel to assist with facilitating such training.

Other courses of interest should include hospitality, marine mechanics, carpentry, AC technicians etc. Specifically, areas where it would give students the opportunity for an apprenticeship on the islands.

Not only will we have a higher level of skilled workers and tradesmen, but it will help to alleviate the need for such high dependency on foreign labor force, in addition to providing a readily available recruitment source. 

In short, it is of my opinion, education should always trump building more prisons. As concerned citizens, we have a choice to make, stay silent or let our voices be heard. This is what helps to drive government to action or lack thereof.

Ed Forbes,

Concerned Citizen of Grand Turk

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Health

Hundreds Treated in First Ever Sandals Foundation, Beaches Resorts, Great Shape! Inc’s 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic

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#TurksandCaicos, October 26, 2021 – Hundreds of people have been excitingly lining up outside the Church of God of Prophecy in Five Cays eager to meet with and be treated by an incredible team of dentists and other medical professionals at the island’s first ever 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic.

The programme, which provides access to free first-class dental care and education, is operated by the United States-based non-profit, Great Shape! Inc. and is being facilitated by the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) which operates Beaches Resorts – the Sandals Foundation.

Since its opening day on Monday, October 15, approximately 700 people have benefitted from fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals, sealants, dentures and more from a team of 60 Great Shape! Inc. volunteers.

Joseph Wright, Founding Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc. says, “We are thrilled to launch the 1000 Smiles Project in Turks and Caicos Islands, 18 years after our first project in Negril, Jamaica!  The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disabled the governments’ ability to provide routine dental care in the countries we work in. So we are finding that after nearly 2 years, the need for dental care is acute.”

In the Turks and Caicos,” Wright continued, “The story is the same.  The lines are long and the people are so incredibly grateful.  With the help of Sandals Foundation, the 1000 Smiles Project launch in Turks and Caicos has been remarkably smooth and successful despite the many challenges we’ve face in these unique times.”

Clinics are open daily 8:30 to 4:30 with its operations carefully following Covid-19 safety protocols and guidelines.

To date, the teams have enjoyed the notable visits from members of the local communities including the Minister of Education and elected representative for the Five Cays District, Hon. Rachel Taylor. Hon Taylor was able to meet with the volunteer team and discuss the potential of future programs in partnership with Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation.

Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation was elated to see the turnout of families, noting that increasing access to healthcare services is a key component of the philanthropic organization’s work in improving the lives of the region’s people.

“We are beyond pleased to see the expansion of the 1000 Smiles dental programme into the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. Healthy people make healthy communities and as a Caribbean organization, we are fully committed to doing what we can to invest in the long term development of the region’s health sector and services”.

“These past eighteen months have been tough for families across the world,” continued Clarke, “We are very conscious of the toll this pandemic has had on families being able to meet some of their very basic needs. Good oral health reduces the risk of developing other serious diseases and so through these clinics, we just really want to help as many people as possible take care of one of the most important health investments they could make,” Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation.

The Sandals Foundation Great Shape! Inc. dental programme has been a staple across the Caribbean since 2003, operating in the islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia and Grenada.

Here in Turks and Caicos Islands, mission volunteers are all being hosted at the Beaches Resorts with logistical, infrastructural and staff support covered by the hotel’s philanthropic arm.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Volunteer Dentist hard at work performing procedures

1st insert: Great Shape! Inc. Volunteer Leader, Kevon Williams and Beaches Turks & Caicos Team Member, Quinique Cartwright

2nd insert: Dental Clinic at the Church of God of Prophecy, Five Cays

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Dig Deeper, Wait Longer – Supply Chain issues will hurt Import-dependent territories like TCI

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#TurksandCaicos, October 26, 2021 – After the devastating effects of the global pandemic, major economies are grappling with yet another global crisis: global supply chain disruption.  Manufacturing industries are running short of raw materials, Tech Company’s running out of parts and chips, while the supermarkets, food stores, and local retails are running out of stock.  But, the worst is yet to come as the pressure at the ports continues with no signs of easing quickly.

TCI is one of the countries in the Caribbean region likely to face the impact of the supply chain breakdown caused by the long-term effects of the global pandemic that sent most of the now operating companies to a sudden halt.

Being an island nation endowed with spectacular tourists attraction sites and fantastic beaches, the country depends largely on the blue economy and imports most of the products such as foodstuffs, cosmetics, automobiles, electronic, fabrics, furniture, fuel, equipment, building supplies and more, from abroad through its South Dock port.

However, the sea routes and major export economies of China and India are busier than ever before, facing unrelenting delays in loading and offloading the vast number of commercial container ships supplying the world’s markets.  The pressure at the ports has caused delays in shipment and freight hikes, resulting in an increased cost of imported products.  As such, TCI residents will have to dig deep into their pockets to pay more for imported products they primarily rely on.

While the crisis has hit highly populated nations such as the US and India hard, Caribbean countries with a small population such as the Turks and Caicos Islands may not feel the heat immediately.  But, with the nearing Christmas season, products ordered abroad will take longer to reach customers and at a pricier tag than they used to be in the past.

Additionally, on-demand products, gifts, toys, and more are likely to run out at stores if the supply chain crisis exacerbates ahead of the Christmas holiday due to panic buying and the skyrocketing demand for these items.

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