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Illegal sloops from Haiti flood TCI during COVID-19 crisis; residents on edge

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands — Overnight Turks and Caicos borders were breached by suspected illegal Haitian migrants and while some were captured, others appear to have escaped detection and made landfall.

Reports from residents of sightings and face-to-face encounters are vexing and disconcerting, especially given the public health crises created internationally by the novel coronavirus: COVID-19.

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In a voice note circulated on WhatsApp, a resident of Providenciales said: “Looks like we have been locked down and our borders are not being protected as we have so many boats coming in here.”

The man expressed that he believed as many as three boats landed in the northwestern end of Providenciales.

Governor and Officers on the scene of a successful interception at South Dock, Providenciales, TCI

“On my journey doing my exercise this morning, I encountered a little episode where me and my wife ran into a group of Haitians coming out of the bush. There was a bigger group ahead, so, one was coming to me speaking in Creole. I had to brush him off and continue walking, but it was kinda scary,” the man said in the audio message sent to relatives and advising them to ‘stay safe’.

Images shared on social media revealed law enforcers who were donning the all-important Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear; however the six-foot rule of social distancing was clearly disregarded. Scores of captured illegal migrants were seen in one photograph, seated on the floor of the gymnasium with only around two-feet of spacing between the men.

In anticipation of the possible surge in illegal landings or interceptions and guided by the fact that flights between the Turks and Caicos and Haiti are suspended indefinitely; the Governor had informed the general public the Gus Lightbourne Gym would be used temporarily as a detention center.

Law Enforcers protected by PPEs, face masks and gloves as they arrest illegal migrants from Haiti in an interception overnight

Governor Nigel Dakin earlier this week reported that a vessel with many hundreds of Haitian migrants was turned back.  That was good work.  However, it was not a guarantee that the illegal migrants would not make another attempt.

The Turks and Caicos has a coastal radar, which performs well in the effort to interdict and intercept. The images from overnight, however are reflective of those boats which sometimes slip through undetected and the people which are apprehended, then become the responsibility of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government with its limited capacity and strained resources.

COVID-19 is an all-consuming affront and threat to the modern world, but human traffickers flagrantly disregarding the additional pressure of smuggling operations. Residents are incensed by this and by the response to this ongoing problem by officials, including the United Kingdom which is responsible for National Security and Foreign Affairs.

“After I got away from them and I called 91, continue my journey about 45-minutes up to now, not a police came into Blue Hills as yet! On my way back, on the dirt road a whole group of them – about 15 – were running, just running.”

It was not the only report of no or slow response to the sightings of suspected illegal migrants by residents of Providenciales.

Additionally, Haitian officials, according to media reports, are accused of not accurately reporting on COVID-19 cases within the republic.  Many find it impossible to believe there are only 16 or 18 coronavirus patients in all of Haiti.

Suspected illegal migrants from nearby Haiti photographed in bushes; residents say trying to evade capture

Haiti has a population of 11 million and notoriously falls short when it comes to coping with outbreaks of infectious diseases. The country shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, which tragically leads the region in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Over 1,300 are infected and the death toll is approaching 60 people according to April 2 statistics.

Cell phone video, also distributed on social media had captured the goings-on within the bush area flanking the Providenciales Landfill or dump site; three males are spotted navigating the bushes which have long been identified as a common hide-out for undocumented migrants from nearby Haiti.

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Caribbean News

TCI Tourist Board – Represented at New York Travel & Adventure Show

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Manhattan, New York (Friday, February 3, 2023) – The Turks and Caicos Islands recently participated in the successful New York Travel & Adventure Show held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York from Saturday, January 28th – Sunday, January 29th. The event was New York’s largest travel gathering since 2019, providing the perfect platform to showcase the Turks and Caicos Islands and its unique luxury offerings as a multi-island destination. This was part of a larger effort by the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board to showcase the destination at several major travel shows in the United States.

Mary Lightbourne, the Acting Director of Tourism, and Gabriel Saunders, the Senior Public Relations Officer, proudly represented the Turks and Caicos Islands at the event and emphasized its status as a premium travel destination. During the event, they engaged with travel enthusiasts, media outlets, influencers, and more to further increase visibility about the World’s Top Trending Travel Destination for Fall 2022. Visitors at the booth were given informational brochures on the destination and treated to a tasting of Bambarra rum, as well as Bambarra rum cakes. As a special souvenir, they were also gifted Beach Buddies keychains, designed as queen conch shells, spiny lobsters, Turks Head cacti, flamingos, and pelicans – symbolizing the coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“The New York Travel & Adventure Show was an ideal platform to facilitate us bringing the stunning beauty and diverse offerings of the Turks and Caicos Islands to a massive audience of travel enthusiasts”, stated Mary Lightbourne. “Through this opportunity, we were able to foster valuable connections with key industry leaders and share our islands’ captivating allure with travel lovers in a significant source market”, added Lightbourne.

Attendees had the chance to interact with the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board’s representatives and learn about the destination’s diverse offerings, including world-class beaches, turquoise waters, luxury resorts, and vibrant culture.

“We were honoured to showcase the distinctive character of our destination and provide attendees with a taste of the local flavours and products that make our tourism product truly remarkable,” said Gabriel Saunders. “The Turks and Caicos Islands offers an unparalleled travel experience and we were grateful for the opportunity to inspire more people to come discover its beauty” added Saunders.

The New York Travel & Adventure Show was a two-day event that brought together top travel experts, destinations, and cultural attractions from around the world to provide inspiration and information to travel enthusiasts. The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board also represented the destination at the recent Chicago Travel & Adventure Show and will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Atlanta Travel & Adventure Show and the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show.

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Caribbean News

The Idea that became an Iconic Event for Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 2, 2023 – An idea executed to perfection with the help of the entire Turks and Caicos community, that’s Island Fish Fry.  Born 10 years ago, in January 2013, it was a partnership between the Government, Private institutions, vendors and supporters all working together to make develop an authentic TCI experience; today it is an indisputable success.

Since its inception, Island Fish Fry has become a staple of the TCI community.   It’s where you can get your T-shirts to Lobster Mac and Cheese, a taste of Monkey Bag rum or TCI brewed beer, natural coconut water in branded coconut mugs, the oceanic beauty captured in charms and household items or glittering handmade bangles with entrepreneurs and crafters clamouring for their space at the ‘Fry’.

We spoke to several people who told us about the history of the event and what they love most about the evolution and realization of Island Fish Fry Ralph Higgs, Former TCI Tourist Board Director under whose direction the event was conceptualised recalled its beginnings.

“I do remember my first Fish Fry, it was the 29th of January 2013— It came as a result of many of our local businesses, mainly restaurants and other businesses featured at the fish fry saying ‘we don’t have an avenue or an outlet where tourists can come and try our products’.  Hence the idea of a weekly fish fry where tourists can come and try our products, try the cuisine, see the art and craft and then go on to enjoy it.”

Higgs says the event is a source of pride especially considering its capacity to nurture the arts in young Turks and Caicos Islanders

“Well I feel proud of the event but more so many of our local businesses and artisans that have found themselves at fish fry,” he used Wellington Williams, one of the country’s most prolific jewellery makers, as an example, “I remember him as a little boy trying to find his way in that business and he approached us at the Tourist Board for space at the Fish Fry and we were delighted to have him display his art. I think the rest is history. He is a success story by every definition and there are many others who have been able to find their footing because of the event.”

In a decade, the well-loved event has not faltered, only inclement weather and the Covid-19 pandemic have the reputation of putting the brakes on the outdoor festivity which features live music, community dancers, on the grill cooking and picnic styled eating.  Yet, even those challenges were overcome.

In 2021, Josephine Connolly became the country’s newest Minister of Tourism and in our chat with her about Island Fish Fry, Connolly described her elation when she was able to lead a team into resuming the event, finally.

“Fish Fry belongs to the people of this country— We made a concerted effort to make sure that a sense of normalcy returned to the people of this country, our tourist arrivals [had] continued to increase during COVID therefore we had to continue with the fish fry to ensure that our guests received their TCI flavour though it.  I am elated that Fish Fry returned and the entire Turks and Caicos and our guests are elated.”

Higgs praised the continuity of the event highlighting the vendors, musicians, entertainers, crafters, officials and others who have persevered to ensure there was a rich range of Turks and Caicos creativity and culinary skill on display week after week.

“There were many who came and showed support and many of them are still at the fish fry playing music, selling their goods and services and I’m so proud of all of them.”

Island Fish Fry celebrated its ten year anniversary on Thursday January 26th 2023.

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Bahamas News

Consumer protection, 85 businesses to be put under watch 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

 

 

February 2, 2023 – Grocery stores and dozens of other businesses will be under the microscope soon as the government begins aggressively enforcing the Consumer Protection Ordinance passed back in 2016 with an all-new Compliance and Regulatory Enforcement (C.A.R.E) Drive.

Carried out by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Fair Competition the drive aims to “actively educate providers whilst enforcing the main provisions to protect consumers under the Consumer Protection Ordinance,” a press release explained.

Firstly, Consumer Officers charged with protecting the people of the TCI from unfair business practices will be assessing the prices of selected breadbasket items in 23 different stores countrywide each month to see whether price gouging is being carried out by businesses.

Breadbasket items are currently duty-free under the Food and Fuel Tax Break until the end of the financial year in March and all savings from those tax exemptions should be passed on directly to the consumer. After each assessment, which will continue for several months at least a monthly price report will be published on the Department of Trade’s website.

In addition, the Consumer Officers will be monitoring other business activities across the country “to ensure that providers are compliant with their duties to consumers.”

Those responsibilities include:

  • Giving customers certain basic information about goods and services being sold;
  •  Informing consumers about terms and conditions before any payment is made (e.g., warranties, refunds, returns, exchanges, etc.) and;
  • Abstaining from misleading and deceptive conduct, false representation and unfair business practices.

The government says they will reach at least 85 businesses with the C.A.R.E. Drive but they did not indicate the process behind how these businesses had been singled out. Non-compliant ones will be fined after a thorough investigation and warnings are issued by the Department of Trade.

With this in mind, business owners are being encouraged to familiarize themselves with their duties under the Ordinance lest they be caught in breach. The government did not say what entities would be assessed and whether that included major retail grocery stores, gasoline dealers, water companies, electricity providers, telecommunications companies and other essential providers of the services that all islanders spend on.

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