GRAND TURK, Turks and Caicos Islands: Government officials from the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), in collaboration with representatives from The Bahamas and United States, recently concluded trilateral talks in the nation’s capital, Grand Turk.
On Tuesday, Elma Campbell, the Bahamian Minister of State for Immigration; Ned Siegel, United States Ambassador to The Bahamas, and Rear Admiral David Kunkel, Commander of District Seven, of the United States Coast Guard, began the day with separate courtesy calls on the TCI Governor, Richard Tauwhare and the Premier, Dr Michael Misick.
|L to R: Deputy Commissioner, Hubert Hughes; Kurt DeFreities, Attorney General; Deputy Premier, Floyd Hall; Elma Campbell, the Bahamas Minister of State for Immigration; Governor Richard Tauwhare; Ned Siegel, United States Ambassador to the Bahamas; Rear Admiral David Kunkel, Commander of District Seven, of the United States Coast Guard; and Galmo Williams, Minister for Home Affairs and Public Safety|
Following a lunch on board the Vigilant and the Drummond, US Coast Guard cutters visiting Grand Turk, the Governor hosted the Deputy Premier, Floyd Hall, the Minister of Home Affairs, Galmo Williams and other TCI officials, along with the visiting representatives, to talks on matters of mutual interest and concern.
The detailed discussions were focused on ways to deepen the already close co-operation between these governments with regard to combating the illegal trafficking in persons, drugs and firearms. Additionally, they examined the co-operation with the government of Haiti, and responses to natural disasters.
It was determined that what that can be done collectively adds to the assets they already have individually; whether it be additional intelligence, man-power or equipment.
Importantly, all countries must benefit from this unionisation, and not one country strengthening its particular area, leaving another segment open. The problem, a comprehensive one, is one that must be faced with collaborative efforts on all their parts: addressing the situations outlined.
At the press conference that followed, the issue of the Haitian migration problem was most prominent. Ambassador Siegel stated that over the past the years, the US Government, through United States aid, has spent close to US$600 million dollars and approximately US$23 million through the State Department, for the training of Haiti’s law enforcement agencies, to assist with democracy and rule of law.
Senator Campbell disclosed that the Bahamas and Haiti have an ongoing relationship; and in recent times Haitian police officers have come to the Bahamas on attachment, returning to Haiti with knowledge learnt.
With regard to the human trafficking of Haitians, the Deputy Premier made all aware that, since the new Government of that country was elected, the TCI government has been in dialogue with them, whereby a memorandum of understanding was agreed to, and that the TCI government is “optimistic that co-operation will be forthcoming”.
“The TCI have been assisting Haiti with the migrants that we have here,” said Hall. “We have embrace them, we have gotten them into our school system, we have provided them with health care; therefore, we are looking an options and ways to help.”
Moreover, when looking at each territory, the TCI, Bahamas, US and Haiti, they have to look at things from the same standpoint, in that they are all confronted with the same problem.
“Haiti has an economic problem that needs to be addressed and we need to find a way to stimulate that economy to cause people in Haiti, to stay in their country.”
In the interim, other countries cannot absorb the problem that Haiti has: “So we have to do our part in a joint effort to protect our territory and make sure that our territories are safe from illegal immigration or illegal migration of drugs and firearms,” added Hall.
With reference to the newly purchased radar surveillance system, the Minister of Home Affairs, Williams stated that, when the system is up and running, it will definitely play a part in this initiative; as the three countries will “share intelligence and share assets that we have”.
Recognising that together they could face the common threats that lay before them. Moreover, they applauded the great success that been achieved by Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT); which, over the last 25 years have reduced the flow of illegal drug and migrant trafficking.
With their collaboration, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and United States governments are determined to work together, thereby continuing to strengthen their already-close co-operation.
With the concerted effort, they agreed to work together actively on the following issues:
- Regular, real time exchange of information on migration and drug flows in the region
- Exchange information on potential terrorist threats
- Develop mutual co-operation in preparing for and responding to disaster
- Continue to provide assistance to the government of Haiti to assist its’ efforts to promote economic reconstruction and security
- Engage with the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in future discussions
- Encourage legitimate trade with Haiti while also tightening measures to prevent illegal activities
- To establish a taskforce to meet in early January with representatives from the three sides to:
- Agree on protocols for the exchange of operational information
- Take forward areas of mutual assistance and co-operation including requests for training; integration of operations, and improvement of their respective capabilities.
- To establish a regular dialogue and to meet again in three months to continue to exchange information and to further their common efforts.
On conclusion of the most successful and productive day, Governor Tauwhare hosted a reception in honour of the visiting delegates, and officers and crew of the US Coast Guard cutters.