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TCI Gets Air Surveillance Boost

The Turks and Caicos Islands has received a well-needed boost to its fight against the frequent breaches of its borders, with the arrival an H145 Helicopter - equipped for maritime surveillance operations.

The H145 Helicopter, which is said to be equipped for maritime surveillance operations arrives in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin who made the announcement of the chopper’s arrival, indicated that it came from the Cayman Islands where it was being used.

The chopper arrived after news broke that a boat packed with undocumented migrants from Haiti collided with Marine Police Boat during an interception on Monday night, November 29.

The impact, according to police reports, caused many of the migrants to be tossed overboard.

The Marine Police, with the assistance of the United States Coastguard, managed to pull 64 persons from the water, comprising 41 were males and 23 females. Some of the migrants managed to swim ashore, 16 of whom were apprehended by the authorities and taken to the detention centre in Providenciales for processing.

A further search of the water led to the discovery of seven bodies. The police said they continued their deep into the week, but not further recoveries were made.

The addition of the helicopter, according to Governor Dakin, should lead to earlier detection of undocumented migrants venturing into our waters, as well as other illegal activities, including poaching.

On many occasions, poachers mainly from the Dominican Republic have been caught with hundreds of pounds of marine product. Arising from such interceptions, nationals from that neighbouring country were sentenced and the vessels and marine products seized.

“It’s an example of us drawing on and deploying a range of capabilities to allow us to dominate the waters to our South, providing early warning to allow our Maritime Police longer lead in times when conducting the sort of operation that we have been dealing with the consequences of in recent days,” the governor asserted.

He revealed that that the financial undertaking of the helicopter’s operation in the Turks and Caicos Islands was being borne by the British Government.

His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin

“This airframe - that the UK is paying for during its deployment - and which we are extremely grateful to Cayman for releasing - is but one type of airframe that will be operating with us in the future.

“Others include fixed wing and rotary wing craft that can base here from both the US Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security and many will recall the Royal Navy’s Wildcat deployment at the height of the pandemic when we were particularly vulnerable,” he added.

He pointed out that an important result that came out of the JMC was a UK commitment to help the TCI with its own persistent coverage of its maritime domain during the coming year.

“I’ve also engaged with UK colleagues on a well-established program that should allow us to access the product from Satellite arrays which will of course strengthen our understanding of the maritime environment that surrounds us, not only on irregular migration but also other issues such as poaching,” he continued.

He added: “As the H145 was arriving the high-level team from the US, Bahamas and UK - that we were hosting as part of OPBAT - we’re discussing a significant deepening of our relationship on the lines of: ever more ambitious joint operations, training and, intelligence sharing. We already have a way forward on all three.”

Governor Dakin said a tripartite agreement involving the Turks and Caicos Islands, The United States and the Bahamas on their ability to work together on tackling illegal activities was scheduled to be signed on Thursday, December 2.

“The delegation’s fly to Grand Turk tomorrow to sign agreements that further deepen our ability to collaborate against shared challenges, on respective vessels from the Bahamas and the US. Both Cutters will be welcome guests in the Nations Capital as we make welcome today the crew and Airframe from Cayman,” he said.

The incident on Monday was the latest in a string of reported tragedies befalling Haitian Migrants who decided to depart their borders for greener pastures.

Every year hundreds of Haitian migrants, escaping poverty in their economically arid homeland, perilously take to the high seas bound for the United States, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas. Many times, many of them do not survive to make it to their destinations, as their boats, packed like sardines, sometimes overturn.

On Christmas Day, 2013, a sloop that was being towed by the police marine boat to shore after being intercepted off the coast of Providenciales, capsized causing 17 of the migrants to drown.

In 2007, about 90 Haitians drowned during a predawn thunderstorm after their boat which was intercepted by TCI Marine Branch and was being towed ashore capsized, resulting in many of them being attacked and eaten by sharks. In 2008, many more drowned when their boat capsized as it tried to make its way to West Caicos. Few dehydrated survivors were found on that island clinging to nearby reefs.

File photo of Haitian Boat

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