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“Wrong and Ill-Advised”, TCI Minister vows Repatriations will continue despite UN plea

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 10, 2023 – “I sympathise with the Haitian people but we are a small nation and we are being overrun as we speak, so I will continue to repatriate and to deport Haitians that are in my country illegally.”

That was the determined stance from Arlington ‘Chuck’ Musgrove, the Turks and Caicos’ Minister of Immigration in the face of yet another call from a United Nations Committee, for countries in the Americas to “suspend forced returns and adopt measures to protect Haitians on the move”

The call was made by experts at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on April 28th, after 36,000 were deported from June to March, mostly from the Dominican Republic. They expressed fear at increasing reports of increasing xenophobia against Haitians as well. It is at least the second such plea from the UN in the past year.

The UN Committee did not specify what countries they were referring to. While the US state of Florida is also particularly susceptible to the influx of illegal migrants from the impoverished country, the closest and undoubtedly worst affected countries are The Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas.

What the UN would like to see are countries assessing the irregular migrants, case by case.  Each individual would then be able to be linked – if applicable – to protection needs in accordance with international refugee and human rights law. For TCI this would mean feeding, housing, and clothing more than 1600 migrants while the Government tried to determine their cases.

At this time, without this new request for slower processing before repatriation, it is costing the Turks and Caicos $2,200 per migrant for shelter and security.

“We spent over 3 million dollars repatriating Haitians to Haiti on these illegal sloops and these voyages are killing the people themselves,” Musgrove said of the cost to the TCI.

The bill for 2022/23 has already passed $5 million. “We cannot do more, I refuse to hear something like that from the UN,” he contended.

In fact, the bill, according to Althea Been, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry,  is $6.3 million; she was reporting on May 3 to the Appropriations’ Committee of the House of Assembly.

Increasingly, bloody wars between criminal gangs, an undermanned and outgunned police force and crumbling democratic systems, have worsened the humanitarian crises in the country, which sits north of the TCI; about 30 minutes away by flight.

Dozens of people are killed weekly in Haiti and the UN says almost half its residents are at risk of starvation as larger wealthier countries hem and haw about how much aid they are willing to send.

As reported by Magnetic Media previously “The entire state of Florida is 170,312 kilometres squared, about 12 times the size of the Bahamas which sits at 13,880 km².  The Bahamas in turn is just about 14 times larger than the Turks and Caicos.”

At least a hundred Haitians arrive on each fast boat, the latest intercepted on April 25th was carrying 240.

In fact, if the Turks and Caicos had not deported the migrants who arrived in the country in only three weeks this January, the population would have grown 0.55 percent. Former Governor Nigel Dakin said: “This is, pro-rata, the equivalent of 360,000 crossing the English Channel, or 1.6 million attempting to cross the US’s southern border, over nine days.”

Musgrove described the calls as ‘ill advised’: “Until the UN can really come together and ask those countries who can afford it like the US and France– for help with Haiti, then they cannot ask small countries like the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas to stop repatriating Haitians. That is wrong and ill-advised from the UN.”

Bahamas News

Prime Minister Davis: Cannabis Reform Compendium 2024 ‘a long time coming’

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said on July 15, 2024, that he spoke in support of the compendium of Bills to legalise the use of cannabis for medical and religious purposes, to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis, and to “regulate the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis and related products within our borders and to promote the health and safety of our people.”

“This has been a long time coming,” Prime Minister Davis said, during his Contribution to the Cannabis Reform Compendium 2024 Debate in the House of Assembly.

“For years, Bahamians have called for an administration to have the courage to step up and take this issue on in a decisive and responsible manner,” he added.  “While many other countries, including nations within our region like Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados, have taken steps toward decriminalisation and legalisation for medical use, Bahamians were left wondering when it would be our turn to modernise our local approach to cannabis.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that the national dialogue had been ongoing for the better part of a decade.

“Many people thought change was imminent when the Marijuana Commission began its work in October 2018, under the previous administration,” he said.  “These efforts culminated in a preliminary report delivered in January 2020 and a final report delivered in August 2021.”

He added:  “The Commission cited a wide range of in-person discussions and public opinion research, noting that there appeared to be widespread public support for the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes.  There was also healthy support for decriminalisation and an appetite for a strong regulatory and enforcement framework to ensure high standards for this new industry.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that the recommendations of the Commission called for legalisation for medical use, decriminalisation for small amounts, legalisation for use as a religious sacrament for members of the Rastafarian community, as well as strict regulations to ensure the quality and safety of the local cannabis product.

“In the PLP’s Blueprint for Change, we committed to developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for growing, harvesting, and exporting cannabis to create opportunities for Bahamians,” he said.

“The approach we developed to legislating and regulating Cannabis was informed by widespread research and consultation,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “It was partially based on the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana’s research and findings, as well as the approaches of other jurisdictions like Jamaica, Barbados, and Canada, where Cannabis has been legalised and regulated.”

He said that his Government’s goal was to ensure that it developed the most fair, balanced, and effective legislative and regulatory mechanisms, which would allow The Bahamas to reap economic and health benefits while promoting law and order and keeping its people safe through the introduction of stringent standards.

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Once we felt that we had an adequate draft, we released the draft bills publicly, and we held a number of stakeholder consultation sessions, led by the Attorney General’s Office, in which we sat down with major stakeholder groups like healthcare providers, leaders of our church community, advocates for legalisation, leaders of the Rastafarian community – some of whom I see here today, as well as those who had concerns about the impact of legalisation and decriminalisation on the proliferation of usage. These varied opinions were taken into account and adjustments were made to achieve the most practical and effective approach that would work best for the Bahamian people.”

He pointed out that his Government also paid close attention to ongoing research on the issue – the most recent of which, he noted, was a survey conducted nationally by Public Domain in 2023, which indicated that 61% of the population supported the legalisation of cannabis for medical usage.

“It was clear that the times had changed, and it was time for our laws to change as well,” Prime Minister Davis stated.

He continued:  “We’ve been hard at work since 2021. We knew this was not a process we could rush. There was a recognised need for carefulness and due diligence, but there was also a need to ensure that this new legislative and regulatory regime could be introduced and implemented within this term.  We could not simply kick the can down the road for our next term the way other administrations did.  No, we could not delay these changes – not when so many people had waited for years for real action to be taken.

“Today, the wait is over.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government was taking action on behalf of all of the people who simply wanted the ability to legally consume medical cannabis to help them with their medical conditions.

“There are people with children suffering from epilepsy who have been praying for this moment,” he said.  “There are people with glaucoma who want the opportunity to potentially alleviate their condition with a cost-effective and natural treatment.”

Prime Minister Davis added that there were people living with auto-immune conditions, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and other ailments who were “waiting not-so-patiently for this day.”

“We are taking action for the many men and women living with criminal records for carrying small amounts of cannabis, and the many others who will be spared criminal records as a result of decriminalization,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis stated that, as a society, his Government realised that the old approach taken against Cannabis in the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 90s did not necessarily reflect the current reality.

“Too many livelihoods have been lost because of a joint,” he said.  “Too many lives have been handicapped and potentials lost.”

He added that when he was saying that, it was not his intent to excuse those who choose to break the law.

“After all, the law is the law; it must be respected and upheld,” Prime Minister Davis stated.  “But we also recognise that the law is not static, it is dynamic. And the interpretation of the law and how it serves the greater good of society can change over time.  I am confident that many lives will be changed for the better as a result of the criminal records that will be expunged.”

“Through these reforms, we are upholding the rule of law, making it clear that if you are seeking to supply others with cannabis illegally or engage in other unlicenced and illegal activities, you will be held accountable,” he added.  “Everyone is welcome to participate within the legal and regulatory framework and only within that framework.

“Of course, as a part of this reform process, we are also taking action to recognise the rights and freedoms of Rastafarians to use Cannabis as a sacrament because it should not be against the law for our brothers and sisters of the Rastafarian faith to practice their religion.”

PHOTO CAPTION

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis speaks, on July 15, 2024, during his Contribution to the Cannabis Reform Compendium 2024 Debate in the House of Assembly.    (BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)

 

Release: BIS

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Government

Proposed Amendments for Business Licensing in TCI heard at June 4 Cabinet Meeting  

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#TurksandCaicos, July 19, 2024 – Her Excellency the Acting Governor Anya Williams chaired the 17th meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday June 4th, 2024, at the Office of the Premier on the island of Providenciales.

All members of Cabinet were present with the exception of Governor H.E. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, Attorney General Hon. Rhondalee Knowles and the Ministers of Home Affairs and Public Safety and Utilities.  Ms. Yaa McCartney attended in the capacity of Acting Attorney General.

At this meeting Cabinet:

  1. Received a presentation from the Ministry of Finance on the proposed amendments to Business Licensing which was being put forward as a result of the consultations that had taken place and agreed next steps.

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Government

TCI Cabinet hears NHIP Change Management Plan in Meeting held April 24, 2024  

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#TurksandCaicos, July 19, 2024 – Her Excellency the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam chaired the 12th meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday April 24, 2024, at the Office of the Premier on the island of Providenciales.

All members were present with the exception of the Ministers of Education, Tourism, Border Control and Public Safety who were away from the islands on official duties.

At this meeting Cabinet:

  1. Received a presentation from the National Health Insurance Plan Consultants on the organizations Change Management Program.
  2. Noted an information paper on the work of the Economic Substance Consultancy which was undertaken to provide services to the Financial Transactions Information Exchange Unit (FTIE) in regard to the previous blacklisting of the Turks and Caicos Islands which has since the engagement of this consultancy been reversed.
  3. Approved the reinstatement of the Grand Lucayan MOU for an additional six months from the execution date of the previously approved MOU.
  4. Approved the settlement of a Claim Against Government in line with a ruling of the Court.
  5. Approved the grant of a license for the beach nourishment and installation of four groins lying seaward of parcels 60703/253-263, 330, 331-342 situated at Cheshire Hall for the protection of the shoreline of the said parcels.

Further information on these matters will be provided by Ministers in due course.

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