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Statement by Sean Astwood, PDM Interim Leader: Encouragement to stick with Border Security Strategy they started

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#TurksandCaicos, April 23, 2021 – Two months into its term in Office, the new Government has seen 9 sloops with 3 intercepted in the past week alone carrying a total of approximately 631 persons and one making a rare landfall on the Island of South Caicos with a report that seems that all made good their escape. We can all agree across party lines that this is tragic on all levels but certainly for the people of this country, it remains a financial burden that we painfully bear. On top of this, this is equally a real health risk given the fact that we are actively managing a pandemic that is getting deadlier and deadlier having loss more citizens to death in the past three months than we did in all the prior months during this pandemic.

The PDM as Government recognized and continue to recognize that there must be a strategic, well resourced, modern and sustainable approach to addressing illegal migration and encourage the PNP Government to not abandon the hard work and the plans left behind.

On the PDM assuming Office in December 2016, persons will recall the launch of Operation Guardian as early as a few months after gaining Office which in its inaugural year by July 2017 saw 1335 persons repatriated versus 419 in 2016. This sustained land – based operation was halted for humanitarian reasons following the Twin Storms of 2017. The Storms further highlighted that we could no longer rely so heavily on our Radar System which was damaged following these Storms and which provided limited coverage.

The vision of the PDM Government to become more involved as a true partner with the Governor and UK in the matter of internal and external security put into action and the plans under our 12 Point Law Enforcement Plan which saw the modernization, strengthening and strategic pooling of our resources locally, regionally and internationally. This approach became even more urgent two years ago in March 2018 with an onslaught of sloops which forced us to call on the UK for a UK Ship to provide border coverage which was favorably considered. This also saw the beginning of Official Talks with the Bahamas towards the first ever bilateral agreement: an MOU that will allow us the benefit of the Bahamian resources (The Bahamas Defense Force) in a strategic way outside of the OPBAT arrangement.

With the rapid arrival of illegal sloops and the detention of over 600 migrants in a week, the PDM deem it important to remind the people of our ground breaking efforts and wish to encourage the PNP Government to not abandon the hard work carried out over the past four years which will strengthen our defenses.

After several years of working towards a holistic threat assessment and the creation of a national security strategy, the PDM Government established a Secretariat with its first ever Permanent Secretary of National Security. This Unit must help to provide a coordinated approach across government as the days of having law enforcement bodies working in silos should be discouraged and the smart and strategic use of our limited resources should be encouraged.

Over the years, investment in the leading enforcement bodies has seen restructuring of the then Ministry of Border Control and Immigration Task Force to see the recruitment of a second Deputy Permanent Secretary dedicated solely to immigration and the recruitment of a Task Force Manager. The Police as one of the lead partners in stemming the flow of illegal migrants saw record investment in manpower, cars, boats, plane and drone in its role in national security.

The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources also received new vessels while the Radar Staff was increased and equipment enhanced. While continued investment in the various lead bodies through equipment and manpower is a must, legislation must be introduced to enhance and support all efforts.

However, of critical importance are the three major strands of work advanced before we demitted Office and which have been reported on over the years. All works have taken considerable time with UK and TCI investment and dedication to move at pace. Persons will recall the visit of the UK Border Team and representatives from the Ministry of Defense who made strong recommendations several years ago. Persons will also recall the introduction of a Change Manager in our National Budget two years ago to lead on the creation of a Joint Law Enforcement Body styled a Border Protection Agency that will see the smarter and more strategic use of our resources across law enforcement. As a follow up to these efforts more than 2 years ago, works have advanced for the establishment of TCI’s first Border Force Agency with a direct seconded staff member from the UK (at its own cost) and the establishment of the TCI’s Regiment, now in the process of recruiting more manpower to assist in the area of national security.

The third and equally critical strand of work is the joint investment between TCIG’s Consolidated Funds and National Forfeiture Fund towards the purchase of additional radar satellite stations. These three strands of work should not be discontinued at any cost if we want to see any real change. We call on the PNP Government to allow these works to continue. And even as we seek to strengthen our borders, the work of Operation Guardian, a sustained land – based operation to detain and repatriate undocumented residents must be restored together with the use of the strengthened policies and laws made available to the Planning Department and AG’s Chambers (who manages the Crown Land Unit) to address informal settlements.

We are confident that our many years of work will be a game changer and the continuation of our efforts will be best for TCI.

Bahamas News

Mobile App brings unprecedented access & opportunity to Persons with Disabilities in The Bahamas

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#TheBahamas, December 8, 2022 – Opportunities and services previously out of reach for many Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s) in The Bahamas are now easier to access with groundbreaking upgrades to the ‘AccessAbility’ mobile app innovated by the National Commission of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), through a Bahamian APP developer.

As of January 2023, PWD’s registered on the App will be able to book accessible transportation, allowing unprecedented freedom of movement.

For now, services available on the App include free interpreter services for the deaf and hard of hearing; disaster alerts from NEMA; free registration with NCPD which includes mapped location of registered PWD’s in times of disaster; complaints mechanism; bus routes showing street by street movement ; request for adaptive equipment and other services; business directory for organizations compliant with the Disabilities Act; Career/job listings; as well as trending local and international news and resources.

Financing for the App and the related public education programme was contributed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Multi Country Office located in Jamaica which serves The Bahamas among five English-speaking countries in the northern Caribbean. The App is available for free download from Google Play and the App Store and is also preloaded on all new devices purchased from local telecommunications provider Aliv in partnership with NCPD.

At the launch event on Sunday (4 December), Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon.  Philip Davis said that The Bahamas aimed to achieve inclusion and accessibility on a level playing field for persons with disabilities and that the App was one of the means through which this could be achieved. He lauded the services provided through the app and highlighted the accessible transportation, one touch access to emergency services and sign language interpretation.

The Prime Minister announced that the Department of Labour will enable job listings in the AccessAbility app, and further reminded employers of provisions in the Disability Act for the employment of one person with a disability for every 100 employees. “I am asking corporate Bahamas to join the Government in recognizing the potential in persons with disabilities and providing employment opportunities that may never have been considered before,” he said.

Other major disclosures made by the Prime Minister included The Bahamas’ ratification of ILO Convention 159 establishing the right of PWD to vocational rehabilitation and employment opportunities, and the successful implementation of the Nassau Airports Development’s Sunflower Laynard programme offering empathetic and specialized service to travelling PWD’s

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe, said exclusion of PWD’s over the years has been troubling, but the mobile app will help bring the community closer to realizing inclusion and becoming part of the normalcy of the country. “We are elated and moved. PWD’s are celebrating because we have come a long way and UNDP is helping to make a difference” Minister Wilchcombe stated.

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio said recognizing that Disability Inclusion is a development issue requires continued attention and investment, UNDP supported the Government’s mission to expand digital inclusion to marginalized groups through the Digital Access for All (DAFA) Bahamas Project, specifically focusing on the AccessAbility Mobile App and public education.

She reiterated UNDP’s commitment to improving ICT infrastructure and digital access with and for PWD’s in The Bahamas; advancing gender equality and the empowerment of PWD’s in The Bahamas and forging partnerships to identify challenges and potential solutions to reduce inequalities against Persons with Disabilities.  “It is crucial for governments, public and private sectors, to collaboratively find innovative solutions with and for persons with disabilities, to make the world a more accessible and equitable place,” the Resident Representative noted.

She encouraged Persons with Disabilities to register with the NCPD through the App to ensure they benefit from a wide array of services.

The launch of the AccessAbility mobile app will be immediately followed by a multimedia public education campaign to encourage awareness, downloads, and usage among PWDs.

Technology and digitalization are considered enablers in UNDP’s global service offer of six signature solutions focusing on leaving no one behind. To this end, UNDP partners with countries to develop appropriate digital solutions which help advance poverty eradication, inclusion, equality and crisis resilience.  UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica serves Jamaica, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.

 

Release: UNDP

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Bahamas News

Tropical Storm Owen in December?

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

December 8, 2022 – A low-pressure system observed in the Central Atlantic Ocean has led the National Hurricane Center to believe there is a 50 per cent chance a subtropical or tropical storm will develop. They reported on Tuesday,  the system was 800 miles northeast of the Leeward Islands.

NHC said that by Thursday or Friday, the system should move northeastward, where it will interact with a mid-latitude trough, thereby limiting the chances of development.

The potential subtropical or tropical storm would become the 15th named storm of 2022 and will be called Owen.

Here is the very latest forecast:

Central Subtropical Atlantic

Showers and thunderstorms have increased since last evening near a

large non-tropical area of low pressure located over the central

subtropical Atlantic about 850 miles east-southeast of Bermuda.

However, the system remains embedded within a frontal zone, which is

expected to become more pronounced later today as the low begins to

move east-northeastward at 20 to 25 mph toward colder waters and

interact with a mid-latitude trough.  Therefore, while the system

could show some subtropical characteristics today, its chances to

fully transition to a subtropical or tropical cyclone appear to be

decreasing.  Nevertheless, significant non-tropical development of

this low is expected during the next couple of days, and additional

information, including hurricane-force wind warnings, can be found

in High Seas Forecasts issued by the National Weather Service.  The

next Special Tropical Weather Outlook on this system will be issued

by 9 AM EST Thursday.

 

* Formation chance through 48 hours…low…30 percent.

* Formation chance through 5 days…low…30 percent.

 

Photo Credit: ACCUWEATHER

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Caribbean News

Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness goes to Washington to discuss matters to help with crime

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#Jamaica, December 8, 2022 – The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, travelled to Washington on Tuesday to discuss security matters with various US State Agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. 

Holness said the aim of the meetings is to cut ties between local and overseas criminals and in turn strengthen the country’s crime-fighting efforts.

“I’m serious. If you are overseas and you are sponsoring, directing, and soliciting; if you are financing crime in Jamaica we’re going to get you,” he said.

In a press briefing in early November, the prime minister announced that a State of Emergency (SOE) was issued in seven parishes across the island. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader, Mark Golding has requested that the SOE be extended through to January 14, 2023.

However, a recommendation was made by the non-governmental human rights and justice organization Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) to reject Golding’s extension request.

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