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Container Scanners; TCI waiting years for activation at sea ports and Minister Musgrove updates

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 17, 2022 – Tuesday’s revelation that multiple shipments of guns bound for the TCI were intercepted before they could reach the country’s shores and suspected smugglers were arrested in the US is likely to have brought a sigh of relief to many residents.  The less illegal guns available on the streets the better; especially considering the indiscriminate violence meted out on residents by those who wield them.

But the bust of those gun smuggling suspects highlights the need for sophisticated security options for the Customs Department by raising the question; just how would those guns have gotten into the islands?

Smugglers across the Caribbean are known to use boats to ferry goods and people between islands.  Human smuggling via boats in particular is a recurring problem for the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas especially with their many islands.  Smugglers sneak in on unguarded shores bringing hundreds of people at a time for lucrative paydays, which make foiling these risky voyages more than a full time job.

But contraband also turns up at legitimate ports all the time.  In the US, a member of the 400 Mawozo gang was caught trying to send guns to Haiti in a barrel of clothing passing through customs.

In Jamaica at least twenty guns were found in a cardboard box during routine checks at the airport in January. Seven more were found after being imported in flat screen televisions in March of this year, disassembled and cleverly hidden behind the panels.  In October twenty pistols were found hidden in cereal boxes in Dominica, and the list goes on.

In Dominica law enforcement credited x-ray tech for finding the guns hidden in those cereal boxes, in other situations physical checks of the offending shipments were engaged.

Container scanners have been on the list of needs for the ports of The Turks and Caicos for years.  So far though, none have been procured for the docks.

In the 2021/22 period alone the Ports Authority said it recorded a 59 per cent increase in imported cargo volumes, handling just shy of 600,000 tons compared to 374,194 tons in the previous year.

In a statement obtained by Magnetic Media, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services admitted government was aware of the need and was working toward implementation.

“Our visit to Barbados confirms the effectiveness of operating container scanners. Funding for scanners is included in the redevelopment of South Dock.  It is proposed to seek expedited approval to procure a mobile scanner for South Dock.  Technical assistance will be sought to assist the Ports Authority and Customs Department with preparing tender documents to procure the scanners.  Container scanners are custom built so it would take 4 to 6 months before the scanner can be in place.”

He maintained that TCIG was seeking expedited approval based on National security concerns.

Governor Nigel Dakin has also indicated that a UK Team is conducting three months of work to write a business case and prepare the tender process for “e-gates” and “e-borders”, the timeline on actual implementation though was not provided.

What is documented however, is that within weeks of improving security at TCI airports there were deeply troubling finds.  It was reported by Minister Musgrove that adding scanners and at least one special trained canine at TCI airports unearthed disguised illicit drugs.

There had also been unconfirmed reports of handguns discovered in unclaimed luggage flowing between Providenciales and Grand Turk.

With the exponential increase in cargo and the increase in gun crime, especially vicious shootings, the need for high tech security options at the sea ports in the Turks and Caicos also increases to cut off any chance of criminals using legitimate channels to import killing machines as legitimate cargo.

Caribbean News

Barbados bestows Humanitarian Award on PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne 

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#Barbados, November 25, 2022 – The newest recipient of Barbados’ Humanitarian Award is outgoing Pan American Health Organization Director, Dr Carissa Etienne.  The government of Barbados grants this award to frontline workers who were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Etienne expressed her gratitude for the recognition, noting, however, that she was more grateful for the opportunity to have served on the island. She also praised Prime Minister, Mia Mottley for her diligence in leading the country and regional involvement during the pandemic.

Humanitarian medals were also given to Frontline workers who risked their own safety to ensure the needs of the public were met. Those who held supporting roles on the frontline received humanitarian lapel pins, and those who made generous donations were given humanitarian plaques.

Dr. Etienne highlighted one major lesson from the pandemic, “we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe”.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Bahamas News

Former Bahamian Cabinet minister defends record amid ongoing police investigation

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – Former Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Lanisha Rolle is reportedly currently under investigation due to several allegations that came up during her tenure; she however knows nothing of this alleged criminal investigation.

After the minister resigned – unceremoniously –  in February 2021 with little explanation, the ministry was locked down by the Prime Minister for an audit of the National Sports Authority, which fell under her ministry.

Auditor General Terrance Bastin revealed that unauthorised contracts had been issued, some of which were later forwarded to the NSA for payment. Three cheques to contractors were also found, which were paid to individuals and then collected by a senior ministry official.

Despite the allegations, Rolle said she upheld cabinet standards and good governance during her tenure. She added that a minister is not always aware of “everything in a ministry at any given time.”

Rolle said she has not yet been approached by the RBPF regarding the audit findings.  Having served as a member of the Police Force for 11 years herself, Rolle told a crush of media on Wednesday (November 23) that she continues to trust that they will follow the legal process and in due time, the truth of her innocence will be revealed.

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