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TCI HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ON GOVERNMENT COVID-19 POLICIES

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#TurksandCaicos – April 30, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government recently announced the following policies with a view of mitigating against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic:

  1. mandatory vaccination as a condition to obtain a work permit (both new and renewal).
  2. mandatory weekly testing of public facing public servants who decide not to be vaccinated.
  3. requiring vaccines to obtain benefit in certain circumstances (e.g., easier re-entry into TCI for vaccinated residents, etc.)

The Human Rights Commission is mandated to take appropriate steps to protect the rights of all residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands and in doing so must act in accordance with the Islands’ Constitution which enshrines various human rights as fundamental rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by all residents of the Islands. Whilst some human rights are absolute, others can be derogated when required by circumstances of public emergencies. The Constitution, like other human rights conventions, allows for the Government to derogate some of the non-absolute fundamental rights during periods of public emergency.  

The Commission has considered the policies of the Government and agree that it is empowered under both the Constitution and international conventions to derogate some of the non-absolute rights.  In so doing, the government is required to balance the protection of rights against public safety while ensuring that absolute rights are maintained. In the case of the Covid-19 policies, the right of one individual not to be vaccinated must be weighed against the right to life of the general population.  This balancing act is a key component of democratic societies. In seeking to balance, the Government must act reasonably, proportionately and in the best interest of the greater population.

The following is a consideration of relevant fundamental human rights:

The right to life (Section 2 of the TCI Constitution)

This is an absolute fundamental human right and cannot be derogated. Accordingly, the Government cannot deliberately take a person’s life. This includes a duty to take proactive, reasonable steps (not all possible steps) to protect a person’s life; and applies when Government knows (or ought to have known) that life is at serious and immediate risk. In a health setting, reasonableness is judged against broadly accepted medical opinion. It is the Commission’s view that the Government has taken reasonable, proportionate, and pro-active steps to protect the lives of its citizens and residents.  None of the Government’s actions places any life at serious and immediate risk.

The right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment (Section 3 of the TCI Constitution)

This is an absolute right and protects against serious physical or mental harm from the Government, whether that harm is intentional or not. The Commission views the Government’s action as proportionate and adequate to protect the general public of harm (both mental and physical).  None of the actions will result in inhumane or degrading treatment or harm.

Right to liberty (Section 5 of the TCI Constitution)

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.   A person is deprived of their liberty when they are living under constant supervision and/or control and they are not free to leave.  The right can be restricted when necessary, under very specific circumstances.  A deprivation of liberty is only allowed if it is lawful, legitimate, and proportionate including for the purpose of ‘the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases. ’Government’s action to implement the policies for the purpose of the prevention of Covid-19.  The actions are reasonable and proportionate and does not extremely restrict people’s movements.

The right to private and family life (Section 9 of the TCI Constitution

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.  It protects our right to respect for private and family life including physical and mental wellbeing and autonomy (e.g., being able to make decisions about your health and care).  Condition of vaccination to enjoy certain benefits (entry into public places, hassle free travel, etc.) may in normal circumstances be a contravention of this fundamental right.  It is the Commission’s view that the Government action to derogate this right is warranted under the period of emergency and the derogation of the right is both reasonable and proportionate.  Persons are allowed to make the choice about their health however, the government has placed reasonable and proportionate restrictions based on the choice made in the best interest of the population at large.    

The right to be free from discrimination (Section 16 of the TCI Constitution):

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.  This right seeks to protect our right not to be discriminated against and means that we should all be able to enjoy our human and fundamental rights without discrimination.  Differential treatment of people may not be discriminatory if it can be objectively and reasonably justified.  In this case with the ongoing public health emergency the action by the Government can be objectively and reasonably justified in the best interests of the population.

Case law in the EU and Caribbean

Courts in both Europe and the Caribbean have considered contravention of human and fundamental rights claims in relation to mandatory vaccines and derogation of citizens’ rights in times of emergency and crisis.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Czech Republic did not contravene any of the EU Human Rights conventions by requiring mandatory vaccinations (it was not, however, in relation of the Covid-19 vaccine).

The Court in Trinidad and Tobago ruled that the Governments action to refuse entry of citizens into Trinidad and Tobago was not in contravention of any constitutional and fundamental human rights during a time of crisis.

Conclusion

The Commission is not persuaded that the Government’s policies have contravened any rights enshrined in the Constitution. Further, that the policies as implemented are so done for the protection of the public in this time of emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is reasonable and proportionate and it is in their opinion in the best interest of the greater good.  We do not think that any of the actions by the Government described herein contravenes any human right or fundamental constitutional right of any resident of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Human Rights Commission continues to exercise its role as a watchdog institution and for the protection of rights for everyone residing in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Media Statement provided by the Human Rights Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands

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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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News

Minister Doubles Down on need for Population Plan, says TCIs facing EXTINCTION

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, December 8, 2022 – After a firestorm of comments from residents across the Turks and Caicos regarding recent announcements that third generation TCI residents would be able to apply for citizenship, Minister of Immigration Arlington Musgrove now doubles down on the need for an intentional population growth or local islanders could go extinct.

He is now summoning patience and clarifying that more than TCI descendants in The Bahamas are being considered in the plan.

Acknowledging the polarizing nature of the announcement Musgrove said, “The simple truth is that the population of our country is growing by leaps and bounds year on year, through accidental status, if you will, work permit holders attaining PRC who are then naturalized as BOTC.  In the same token, Turks and Caicos Islander Status numbers have largely remained flat in comparative periods.”

He said through this type of naturalization the TCI is growing much too fast, at a rate of between four and five percent when the country should be maintaining a steady two percent rate.

“Even if we manage the rate down to two percent, it is projected that by 2040, the population will be near or about 50,000 with tight immigration control measures, but it is still estimated that Turks and Caicos Islanders will only be 15,000 in number, less than a quarter of the population, maximum.”

Describing this as unsustainable he cautioned that TCI citizens could disappear completely in the coming years.  “As a people, based on today’s birth and death records, could be near extinction if certain steps aren’t taken. So, we are looking at how this can be balanced.”

Musgrove reiterated that the new policy is in an effort to ‘strengthen ties with the diaspora and to welcome them as the first option for population expansion for the future.’

The intention is to amend the law to give these grandchildren and great grandchildren the right to become Turks and Caicos Islanders.

He explained that data was currently being collated by the Immigration and Population Council, tasked with developing a policy for the controlled growth of the population.

Any proposals made by the council he said, would be taken to public consultation in time, but something needed to be done immediately.

“As a Government– we are of the view that it is better to increase the number of Turks and Caicos Islanders with descendants of our own flesh and blood in the first instance, and then by other means – be it local child birth to foreign parents, or by grant.”

In the two weeks since the announcement, residents have cited anxiety over criminal records, and the dangers they think may exist from opening the doors to the diaspora.  To those concerns Musgrove said this,  “The Government is not deaf to the concerns of our people.  We understand that there is inherent risk in opening our country to further generations, but we must recognize that there is inherent risk in opening our doors to anybody.”

He made it clear this was open to all third generation TCI Islanders not just Bahamians and promised that immediate Turks and Caicos citizens would not be left out under any circumstances.  He promised more incentives for young people to remain in the TCI ,as well as incentives to encourage childbearing among Turks and Caicos Islanders.

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Caribbean News

Not long now, North Caicos Airport has equipment and staff says Minister

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, December 8, 2022 – Long awaited upgrades are finally being put into the North Caicos airport starting with a new terminal according to Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services who confirmed staff and equipment for the facility.

The Minister, who also oversees airports and sea ports, made the announcement at a November 29th town hall meeting in North Caicos, prompted by questions from residents.

“We’re sending out an IFP this week or early next week for the demolition and construction of a new terminal building.”

The minister explained that they had already acquired a firetruck and security guards were in the works for the new airport.  In addition air traffic controllers are being trained and firefighters were being secured as well.  He maintained this wouldn’t just be a government only airport as they were sending out multiple Invitations for Proposal.

“It’s not only the terminal building, there’s going to be an IFP for a Fixed Base Operator.  The FBO is going to be privately owned, customs and Immigration will be there from the government.”

In terms of how long it would all take Musgrove, who is the Member of Parliament for the twin island district said this, “We’ll start next year for the FBO but the small terminal building, as soon as we get the tender ready that’s gonna start.”

The minister also mentioned the new developments for Dellis Cay,  which he hoped would push traveller traffic on the islands.

 

Photo credit North Caicos airport:

PHOTO BY VISIT TURKS & CAICOS 

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