Investigators from the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force believe that a boat found drifting off the coast of the capital Grand Turk with 20 corpses might have originated from West Africa.
It is reported that in the early morning on June 24th, fishermen told local authorities that they saw a vessel with what appeared to be dead bodies on board, drifting off the coast.
The Marine Branch, as well as the Immigration Department, who went to investigate, found the vessel with 20 bodies aboard.
Commissioner of Police, Trevor Botting, said the police were now working to establish the identities of the remains with assistance from International law enforcement partners and through the United Kingdom Diplomatic Channels.
"We have been working closely with our partners in the United Kingdom and other international law enforcement agencies to work as quickly and efficiently as possible to identify those who were found deceased and establish the circumstances that led to their death,” Commissioner Botting said, adding that the local coroner has been playing a major role in the investigation.
“The Her Majesty's Coroner has been heavily involved in that regard,” he added.
Botting said it appeared that the Turks and Caicos Islands was not the intended destination for the ill-fated vessel.
“It is believed the deceased persons originated from the West Coast of Africa, and neither the Turks and Caicos Islands nor the region was their intended destination.
“Although the details of the intended journey are yet to be established, we believe the vessel is linked to a similar vessel found in the waters of Tobago. We are liaising with the authorities there", the commissioner continued.
Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago said that a boat carrying 15 corpses found in late May near the country's coasts had left from Mauritania with a group of migrants heading for the Canary Islands but was swept by strong currents to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - a distance of over 5,000 kilometers, or about 3,107 miles.
The Trinidad and Tobago police chief in charge of the investigation, William Nurse, told reporters at the time that the investigators found that the boat had been stolen in Mauritania and a cell phone registered in that country was found on the boat.
The boat was sighted on the morning of May 28 by fishermen near the island of Tobago.
In February, the authorities of Guyana were told that a "ghost boat" had been sighted with corpses onboard but never found, according to local media.
In the meantime, Commissioner Botting expressed regret at the loss of life, while at the same time, praising the men and women under his watch for their courage to have worked under such circumstance.
"This is a terrible loss of life, and I would like to extend condolences to families of the deceased. Additionally, I would like to thank the RTCIPF investigators and support team for all the hard work done thus far in this tragic and distressing case. We will continue to do our best to get the remains of those who have passed away home to their loved ones," he said.