The unspeakable amount of funds spent to house and repatriate illegal migrants could go towards fixing roads and providing the Turks and Caicos Islands with well-needed infrastructure, so said Immigration Minister Hon. Arlington Musgrove, who has vowed to dismantle the practice.
Speaking at a news conference at the Premier’s Office on Thursday, November 18, Musgrove announced a raft of measures his government would implement to halt the influx.
“We have to try in a different manner, the old ways have been going on for too long. The past is the past. I can only build on that, and I can say, there is a new Sherriff in town. We are doing things differently. We are putting things in place. It is not business as usual anymore,” Musgrove insisted.
He said government was well advanced in constructing two additional coastal radar sites to detect illegal activities on our waters.
“To date, both sites have been cleared and works have begun. The projected date for the full installation and operation is by March 2022. And we are on target.
He said the installation of the radar stations would improve maritime border security and boost maritime protection. One will be situated in the Long Bay area and the other in the Northwest Point area.
“While these works are underway, the radar unit is working jointly with law enforcement agencies, including the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force, Immigration and the TCI Regiment,” he said.
He observed that since 2018, the practice of boats ferrying illegal migrant mostly from Haiti has been steadily rising, and such exercise was not only threating the TCI economy, but way its of life.
“In 2018, we have 11 detections; in 2019 there were 12 detections; in 2020 there were 15 detections, and since 2021 there has been 13 detections,” Musgrove assessed.
Musgrove said his administration recently met with the incoming Haitian consul and will shortly be signing an MOU for sharing of information and assistance in relation to the illegal Haitian Migrant situation that the country is currently facing.
The immigration minister also told reporters that the moratorium placed on new visa issuance to Haitians visiting the TCI will be extended until 21st of January 2022. He said the matter would be continuously assessed until the extension period expires.
He said such decision was taken as a result of a copious of fraudulent documents being presented to local authorities from persons from Haiti, seeking to come to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“We have an obligation to protect TCI residents and visitors alike, by ensuring that persons entering the Turks and Caicos Islands comply with the stipulation of entry,” he said.
He said an initiative that has been dubbed as ‘Operation Compliance’, by the Immigration Department has been conducting on-going joint operations, where illegal migrants have been held and repatriated, noting that those repatriated were not only persons that entered the country illegally, but also those whose documents have been expired but continue to remain in the country, and also those working contrary to their work permit specifications.
He said also that a revision of the Immigration Legislation has been put under the microscope, “In particular to deal with persons who are in breach or violation of the ordinance.”
Minister Musgrove announced that through the recently passed supplementary appropriation bill, his ministry got $300,000 for the establishment of an immigration and population policy commission, which he said would address a plethora of issues such as residency and status matters with a view to address legacy issues and to advise the government on actions that should be taken to resolve legacy issues, and also to advise on future immigration and population matters.
He said through the supplementary appropriation, additional funding was approved for the upgrade of the detention centre, and for the recruitment of an in-house registered nurse, to meet the international standard of persons in detention, noting that the staff core at the facility has been bolstered by eight.
The tough-talking minister asserted that immigration training, including how to approach persons seeking asylum and human trafficking is ongoing.
He said, too that the process has begun to merge Immigration and Customs, to strengthen service delivery.