Governor Ric Todd held a joint meeting with Turks and Caicos Immigration Minister Don-Hue Gardiner, permanent secretary Clara Gardiner and the TCI-based Haitian Consul General, Karlo Pellissier, on Thursday.
This session was called to discuss how the TCI and Haiti can better work together to tackle the issue of sloops leaving that country headed for the TCI.
The participants agreed that:
1. the Haitian government would send an expert delegation to discuss with TCI officials how to build cooperation focussed on deterring illegal immigration and prosecuting the traffickers;
2. the Governor's Office will investigate having the Royal Navy warship stationed in the Caribbean to provide hurricane relief and to interdict drugs and people trafficking, contribute more to maritime patrolling between TCI and Haiti;
3. both countries would stress in public information campaigns that any illegal immigrants making such a journey are taking a serious risk of death; they will almost certainly be caught and deported; and if they do get into TCI they will not find work.
Todd had earlier visited the TCI immigration detention centre in Five Cays, where he met director of immigration Larry Mills and detention facility manager Peter Parker. He personally thanked them and their colleagues for all of their hard work in difficult conditions efforts to process and repatriate nearly 300 illegal immigrants from three Haitian sloops over the past two weeks.
“Preventing illegal immigration is everyone’s business,” said Todd. “While positive steps have been taken such as the new coastal radar stations, clearly too many people are trying to make the dangerous 90-mile sea journey to TCI.
“While it is true that many of them have been lied to about the possibilities of finding work and a new life here, indeed many think that they are being taken to Miami, we must also face up to the fact that some people in TCI are prepared to employ illegal immigrants. Employing illegal immigrants is illegal and wrong. We are determined to enforce the law but we must work to make this as socially unacceptable as drink driving. When an illegal person is employed it denies a legal resident the chance of a job and deprives the government of work permit income.”