SYRIAN NATIONAL SMUGGLED THROUGH THE TCI

My fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, I have read with interest an article in one of the local newspapers, speaking about a Syrian national being smuggled through these Turks and Caicos Islands.  

To set the record straight, here are the facts as I know them:

On 8th January 2021 around 8:23am members of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force- Marine Division found a boat in Turk and Caicos Islands waters, in the Northwest Point area of Providenciales, with just one person on board, at the time.

It would later be determined that the boat, which entered the TCI illegally would have had a total of twenty-five (25) persons on board, including twenty-two (22) males of which Mr. Moin Alhashash, was one and three (3) Haitian females.

Mr. Moin was able to be interviewed in creole, through an interpreter, as he spoke creole, having spent fourteen (14) months in Haiti, where he learned the language.

It was never Mr. Moin’s intention to remain in the TCI, as his plan was to go to the United States (Miami, FL), having paid the captain of the Haitian sloop four thousand (US$4,000.00) dollars.

Mr. Moin was arrested and charged by members of the Enforcement Unit under the Immigration Ordinance for the offence of “Unlawful Entry,” to which, he plead guilty.  

The matter was heard before the Chief Justice on 22nd March 2021. Mr. Moin was sentenced to time served and suspended the recommendation for deportation for 6 months.

Subsequent to the hearing and having been advised of the outcome by the Deputy Director of Prosecutions, the Immigration Authorities set matters in motion to secure alternative accommodation for Mr. Moin. By the time application for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus in respect of Mr. Moin was heard before the Supreme Court on 30th March 2021, those arrangements were well advanced and Mr. Moin had been safely relocated by 2:00pm the same day. The release makes the proposed issuance of the writ nugatory and of no effect.

I hasten to add, that the contents of the story are somewhat misleading in certain respect and paints a distorted picture of my Immigration Department and staff. The flagrant allegations of abuse of statutory power is regrettable. The Immigration authorities are not infallible and have made some mistakes, but endeavor as much as possible to keep their processes and operations within the four corners of the law and do not believe themselves to be a superior force entitled to operative above the law.

I can safely say that we have begun to review our processes within the Immigration Detention Center, a process which we will continue to do every six (6) months, with the assistance of our Senior Managers, Legal advisers and other independent and experienced personnel, aimed at improving our staff and services to the public. There is ongoing training in key problem areas and post mortem reports and reviews. Out of these reviews, there were recommendations for improvement and bridging of gaps in both Immigration legislation and policy development and the implementation process for these recommendations has commenced.

It must be noted contrary to assertions made that the Immigration Authorities take seriously any matter of detention and fully understand the constitutional implications of prolonged or any detention.

I should state that the Sri Lankan matter should not be used as a yardstick to measure the competence of the Immigration Department to adequately manage the entry of unlawful immigrants their detention and eventual removal from the Turks and Caicos Islands. The situation with the Sri Lankans was unique and complex and presented its own peculiar challenges, which necessitated the assistance of specially trained investigators. The immediate repatriation of the Sri Lankans was inhibited by the Covid -19 pandemic and eventual closure of jurisdictional borders. That being said, there have been lessons learned and indicators for improvement in certain areas and efforts are already on stream address these issues.

Our standard operating procedures and rules have been set against best world practices and probably mirrors that of the UK. However, we recognize that these procedures require continuous review and oversight and we have already secured assistance to review and update our existing procedures.

In addition, we have the full-time assistance of the Attorney General’s Chambers staff, who continue to work with us, when called upon to do so.  

Finally, we want to once again, encourage all those persons residing among us illegally to leave the TCI as soon as possible or face the consequences.

Thank you and May God continue to bless these Beautiful by Nature Turks and Caicos Islands

 

Hon Arlington Musgrove
Minister of Immigration, Registration, Labour and Employment Services