The Exodus of Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Hundreds are Moving to the UK and the US.
Will We Be Able to Entice Them to Return to TCI?
Turks and Caicos Islanders continue to leave TCI in mass numbers. However, this exodus is not new nor is it just restricted to the Turks and Caicos Islands. According to Mr. Neville Clarke and Hon. Derek Taylor, Turks and Caicos Islanders were leaving TCI in masses from the 1930s to work in the Lumber Industry in Abaco, Bahamas and to work on the Railroad in Miami, Florida. Then in the 1940’s more move to work in the Salt Industry after one of the Ericksons’ brothers visited TCI (The Erickson brothers started the salt operation in Inagua in 1930’s and came to TCI with the intention to purchase the plant operations here but the offer was rejected). In the end, Mr. Erikson was able to successfully recruit experienced Turks and Caicos Islanders especially from South Caicos and Grand Turk to work with his plant in Inagua. In the 1950’s, Turks and Caicos Islanders migrated to Grand Bahama to work in the Pine Yard Industry. After the collapse of the Salt Industry in the 1960’s, more Turks and Caicos Islanders migrated to the Bahamas.
Today, the exodus of Turks and Caicos Islanders continue but they are migrating to the UK and the US. Many TCI Islanders continue to have their children in the USA and when some of these children reach a certain age, parents migrate or send their children to the USA.
On May 21st 2002, the British Overseas Territories Act granted the rights of the overseas territories such as Turks and Caicos the right to work and live in the UK. As a result of this act, hundreds of Turks and Caicos Islanders are migrating to the UK.
People migrate from TCI for a number of reasons. One of the primary main reasons is due to economic reasons such as higher pay, better job opportunities and lower cost of living. Another reason why some people migrate is for the educational opportunities. In the UK, for instance, students in the public system are getting free education up to year 13 (A level or Diploma program). In addition, you can apply for a grant for University if you have been there for at least three years. Some people also migrate because they are fed up and frustrated with our process of governance. Some people also just want a change of environment.
Why some do not return?
While I acknowledge that some people do return to TCI especially after studies but there are many persons who do not return. Some of them are well established in their careers and so it will be a challenge for them to return. Some of them got married to non -Turks and Caicos Islanders and have their own family abroad. Some people also think that Turks and Caicos is the same place it was when they left. Some feel they will not be accepted by their own and will be referred to as “Johnny Come Lately”. Some feel that they will be wasting their time returning based on the complaints that locals are talking about such as being second-class citizens. Some just do not think they can adjust to living in TCI especially after living in a big city. Some people or their family members have had bad experiences while living in TCI and they do not want a repeat.
Should we Entice People to Return?
The Turks and Caicos Islanders represent less than one third (1/3) of the overall population of TCI. TCI Islanders are therefore already outnumbered and will continue to be so with the development of TCI and the increased trend in the migration to the US and the UK. This is a major threat to us and so I think we should encourage and promote the return of Turks and Caicos Islanders and their descendants to the TCI.
How do we Entice the Return of Turks and Caicos Islanders?
- Upgrade our community college to a University and build a full fledge campus on Providenciaeles. In this way there will be no need for persons to go abroad. However, I do encourage that the university has an international program whereby students can spend a semester abroad at another university for international exposure.
- Most Turks and Caicos Islanders are not sending their children to public schools on the island of Providenciales primarily due to overcrowding. I think the Govt should offer some sort of subsidy to the Private Schools so that the fees can be lower for the locals.
- Create a database of persons residing abroad and when there is a job opportunity, the database should be used to search for the qualified candidate. I know people that came home and waited for almost a year before they can get a job. Individuals will not want to give up their jobs elsewhere if they are unsure of employment in TCI.
- For those who do not have land, guarantee them crown land. If they choose to purchase private land, then give them discount on the stamp duty.
- Offer them discount on duties for the purchase of vehicles and materials for the construction of homes.
- Encourage the promotion of job fairs and advertising in the countries where many Turks and Caicos Islanders are residing
- Invest in activities and programs for our young people so that this can entice families to return with their children
- Rather than encouraging international investors to TCI, perhaps we should encourage the diaspora to invest in TCI and offer them the same or more concessions we offer the international investors.
Why should you return?
- I know most of you abroad are doing really well but there are some of you that will be better off being right here in Turks and Caicos than where you are.
- With the enforcement and regulation of the immigration and labour policies, there is an opportunity for advancement of locals in top positions. Some of you may not get this opportunity where you are.
- The country is growing at a steady rate and this is a great opportunity to become entrepreneurs and be a part of this growth.
- If you love TCI and you want to see this country move ahead, then return home and bring your skills you have acquired while abroad. Be part of the solution
What about the locals that never left?
Many TCI Islanders who never left TCI may object to the incentives and enticements to attract our people back home. However, we recruit individuals to this country on a regular basis and offer them attractive packages and gratuities and so why shouldn’t we do the same to our people that are living abroad. We complain about the country being taken oven and run by non-locals, well this is an opportunity to increase our local data base.
However, as stated in a previous article on empowerment, I would recommend that TCIG should also offer some type of exemptions or concessions to local individuals and businesses for a period of one month on an annual basis. Hopefully this will create some sort of balance and acceptance of the aforementioned incentives for the returning migrants.
I sincerely believe that this is one of the solutions to increase our local data base. There are more Turks and Caicos Islanders living abroad then those living in TCI. Let us encourage their return so we can build a better Turks and Caicos.