Above: Turks and Caicos Premier Dr Rufus Ewing
By the Caribbean Journal staff
In the wake of the Christmas accident that led to the deaths of 17 Haitian migrants in the Turks and Caicos, TCI Premier Dr Rufus Ewing is urging the Haitian government to take greater responsibility for the continued wave of illegal migration to the TCI.
The government of Haiti must make greater efforts “to dissuade the Haitian people from risking life to cross shark-infested waters in an attempt to enter our borders illegally,” Ewing said last week.
The accident occurred when the sloop carrying the migrants capsized while being towed into port by Turks and Caicos Police.
It was the latest in a series of tragic accidents involving Haitian migrants in the region. In November, around 30 Haitians drowned when their boat ran aground and capsized off the coast of the Bahamas.
“I challenge the Haitian Government to prioritize their affairs and to take seriously their charge to protect the lives of their Haitian people,” Ewing said, echoing a similar call made by the United Nations last year. “Your efforts must include educating the people of the great risk that they face in attempting to make the watery crossing and to launch investigations into the organization of these illegal voyages and to penalize offenders found to be directly involved in the operation of human smuggling.”
While Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands held high-level talks in Port-au-Prince in August on the problem, it has remained an issue of serious contention between the two sides.
“While we will do our best in the Turks and Caicos Islands to secure our borders, it is only through the joined-up efforts of both governments that our borders will truly be safe and such tragedies will no longer be a norm for us,” Ewing said.