The invasion of illegal sloops and illegal immigrants to our country is not new. However, recently it seems to be out of control and we must put an end to this. I know it will not be easy but we must try to stop this, otherwise we will be faced with many social and economic issues in this country.
I note that our Government has received the approval from the UK for the bi-lateral discussion with the Bahamas Government in connection with the patrolling of our waters. I commend the Government on this initiative and hopefully once an agreement has reached, we should reap the benefits soon.
The Impact of Illegal sloops and illegal immigrants
It is costing us millions of dollars to repatriate the illegals to their home country. From 2013 to 2017 it cost us $4.3million for the repatriation of 4,548 persons.
Some companies and individuals are hiring illegal immigrants thus impacting those that reside here legally. Those jobs could be occupied by unemployed legal residents. In addition, no national insurance and national health are deducted from their paycheck.
Another economic impact is the health cost. When illegal immigrants go to the hospital for emergency treatment, they are not turned away and if they do not pay the bill, the bill will be eventually footed by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government. This can be very costly and unfair to those that are paying National Health.
There is an expansion of illegal shacks in TCI which is creating an eyesore in many of the communities in Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Islanders are already outnumbered and with a growing increase in illegal immigrants, the gap will continue to widen which is a major social threat.
Enhance the Border Control Areas
Invest in boats dedicated solely for patrolling the waters
While we may be getting help from the Bahamas, we too need to invest in additional boats dedicated for our Marine Branch Police Staff so that they are better equipped in patrolling our waters throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands. Perhaps we will also need additional staff on the marine branch.
Additional Radar Stations
I stand to be corrected but I believe we only have one radar station. We need to invest in at least two additional radar stations and placed them in strategic locations that can detect these sloops from a distance well in advance.
In speaking with Elery James, my friend and a local entrepreneur in TCI, he suggested that we rolled out multiple laser detectors throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands which will detect the vessels 8ft away.
Major Public Relations
Given the magnitude of this issue, we need to invest heavily in a major public relations program. This includes videos explaining to the people of Haiti that it is not worth risking their lives leaving Haiti and when they get caught, they will be repatriated to Haiti. The video needs to capture the stories of boats that were capsized en route to TCI and Bahamas. This needs to be played in on television stations and radio stations in Haiti.
I know that there is a cry by some people to close the Haitian Embassy in TCI. However, I don’t think that is the answer. They were coming before the Embassy opened and if we closed the embassy with no additional plans, they will still come. I think we should work with the Embassy to spread the word to the people of Haiti not to risk their lives leaving Haiti whether It for the Bahamas, TCI or USA.
I know this may sound farfetched but we need to change our ordinance if it is not there already to implement fines for illegal immigrants. Hopefully the fee that is charged will be able to cover the cost that TCIG pays for the repatriation. If they can pay individuals to come here on a boat, then they should pay a fine for illegally entering our waters. There is a business going on in both Haiti and TCI and somebody is making money.
We need to introduce SPICE or a body to inspect the work places throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands. We will be surprised to know the amount of illegals working in this country.
I know that the invasion of illegal sloops and illegal immigrants is a tough battle to fight and overcome. However, we must be innovative because what we have been doing in the past is not working. I am quite aware that people are desperate to leave their home in search of a better life. However, there are legal ways to enter a country.
Our country cannot continue to be invaded like this. We need to end this. In addition to the solutions above, the British Government should do their part in assisting us not just for one week but all of the time.
Finally, while this article is about the illegal sloops and illegal immigrants from Haiti, we should not overlook the fact that there are illegal immigrants from other countries that we need to address and capture.