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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.

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Ms. Camilla Lightbourne joins Experience Turks and Caicos team  

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Ms. Camilla Lightbourne

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 22, 2024 – Experience Turks and Caicos is pleased to welcome Ms. Camilla Lightbourne to the post of Executive Assistant to the CEO effective February 06th, 2024.

Ms. Lightbourne is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree a DeVry University in Florida and previously worked as an Import Logistics Associate at Graceway Trading Ltd. Where she supported department goals and initiatives through the generation of reports and a Business Account Executive at Digicel where she managed daily and monthly reports and helped resolve customer issues.

In welcoming Ms. Lightbourne to the team, Ms. Racquel Brown, Change Manager and Interim CEO of Experience Turks and Caicos said Ms. Lightbourne’s appointment underscores the growth of the organisation.

“Experience Turks and Caicos is growing as an organisation to meet its mission and goal.  The Executive Assistant to the CEO is critical to support the CEO Office for the effective and efficient day-to-day administration to assist the CEO manage the scheduling and timely completion of Strategic Projects and Programmes.   I look forward to working with Ms. Lightbourne as the Change Manager/Interim CEO of Experience Turks and Caicos in this regard,” she said.

Ms. Lightbourne said she is pleased to be part of the Experience Turks and Caicos team.

“I am elated to join such a dynamic organisation and working with the CEO’s office where I will have an opportunity to implement many of the project management and organisational skills I have learned over the years. I am looking forward to making my mark on the future development of our country’s tourism product,” she said.

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Town Hall De-briefing

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#TurksandCaicos, February 21, 2024 – Acting Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre held a meeting with Her Excellency the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and Member of Parliament for Grand Turk North, the Hon. Otis Morris, today (February 21st) at Police Headquarters, Airport Road, Providenciales.

The debriefing was to discuss concerns raised by residents during last evening’s Anti-Crime Town Hall meeting at the H.J Robinson High School, Grand Turk.

Commissioner Eyre expressed his deep appreciation to Her Excellency and Hon Morris for their attendance, saying that work was already underway to address the community concerns.

Commissioner Eyre said: “I acknowledge the challenges raised and wish to assure you that the Executive of the RTCIPF remains steadfast in ensuring the TCI is safe. We listened to your concerns, and I assure you that rebuilding trust and strengthening community-policing relations are top priorities.

“The RTCIPF has taken a holistic approach in the fight against crime. Increased visibility, greater stakeholder collaborations and ongoing dialogue forums to appraise you will occur. We are accountable to you.”

 

Photo Captions

Header: Town Hall Meeting Head Table (l-r) Superintendent of Prisons Michael Woodbine, HE the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, Deputy Commissioner Rodney Adams, Superintendent Dean Holden, ag Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre.

1st insert: HE the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, MP Grand Turk North Hon Otis Morris and ag Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre during this afternoon’s debriefing at Police Headquarters.

2nd insert: Grand Turk resident Derek Been addresses the head table during the Question and Answer segment

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Two Charged With Firearm Offences

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JERREAL MISSICK

#TurksandCaicos, February 21, 2024 – JERREAL MISSICK, 22, of Over Back, Grand Turk and SHAQUAZE FORBES, 21, also from Over Back, are expected to appear before a Magistrate charged with the following offences.

1) Gang Membership;
2) Possession of a Firearm;
3) Possession of Ammunition and
4) Discharging Firearm

Both Mr. Missick and Mr. Forbes were charged under the Anti-Gang Ordinance (2022) following an investigation into the discharging of a firearm incident that occurred on February 13th 2024, in Over Back.
The charges came after police officers consulted with the Office of the Director of Public
Prosecutions.

SHAQUAZE FORBES

Head of Crime, Safeguarding, and Public Protection Superintendent Dean Holden said: “This is another example of the Police Force’s relentless pursuit of those suspected to be involved in gang-related crime, specifically the criminal use of illegal firearms. This latest charge also demonstrates our continued use of the Anti-Gang legislation to target individuals who cause harm to our communities”.

The RTCIPF is asking the public to notify the closest police station, contact 911, the Serious Crime Unit at 231-1842,Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477, and anonymously give any information on illegal activity.

Additionally, persons are encouraged to download the CrimeStoppers P3 app from the Google Play store or Apple Apps and share information anonymously.

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