By Alexander Britell
Turks and Caicos Islands officials said they intercepted a vessel carrying 168 migrants from Haiti early Monday morning.
All 168 passengers have been transferred to the territory’s Detention Centre for “processing and repatriation,” the government said.
The news was met with a strong warning from Border Control Minister Ricardo Gardiner, who said the government “will not tolerate this illegal activity.”
“To those who will test our resolve to enforce our border security, I will tell them to think again. It is a dangerous journey that they undertake, often on overcrowded and unsafe vessels which endanger their lives and the lives of their families,” he said. “We will not tolerate any abuse of our security. We will detect your ship, your ship will be seized and destroyed and its captain prosecuted. We will detain anyone who try to come here illegally and they will be sent back home.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands is a frequent target for migrants from Haiti. Last year, the British Overseas Territory announced it would be reinstating the deportation of Haitian refugees, after a imposing a temporary ban urged by the United Nations following the 2010 earthquake.
Last month, the TCI intercepted a boat carrying 115 migrants, also from Haiti.
“While we cannot stop boats from leaving other countries to come here, we can and will remain vigilant to that activity, and through our border control systems, we will monitor our shores to maintain the integrity of our boarders and our immigration laws and protect our national security,” Gardiner said.
The United Nations has itself expressed concern over the number of deaths that occur each year due to what it termed “irregular migration.” The world body has been implementing several initiatives in Haiti seeking to discourage the practice.