Illicit Maritime Migration Efforts in the Caribbean

The Turks and Caicos Islands Government and in particular, the Ministry of Immigration, Citizenship, Labour and Employment and Employment Services and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, join with the United States Coast Guard, to express serious concerns surrounding ongoing illicit maritime migration efforts and strongly warn against such dangerous travel.

Maritime smuggling operations are dangerous and too frequently end in tragedy and death at sea.   There are many different reasons that migrants attempt such unsafe voyages at sea, but none of them are worth the risk of life.

The dangers of migrant ventures at sea are multi-faceted. The boats intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Marine Branch of the TCI, and its partners, are often severely overloaded, of poor quality, and lack safety equipment.

These boats are often operated by smugglers, who have demonstrated little to no regard for the lives of Haitians nationals, in their pursuit for profit. Smugglers have been known to throw passengers overboard, or abandon their vessels.

In some cases, smugglers are actually human traffickers who exploit migrants through some form of servitude, sexual exploitation, or other criminal activities.

Numerous U.S. agencies and their international partners are working around the clock to deter and stop these unsafe voyages before they end in tragedy. Too often these unsafe voyages result in loss of life, and they almost always result in a considerable waste of effort, precious resources, and time for the migrants themselves.

As we join efforts to combat COVID-19, we are concerned by the increase in unsafe, illicit maritime voyages and smuggling operations in which individuals risk their lives and those of their families.

We urge all to remember that these dangerous voyages are very risky, not worth the loss of life, and are occurring at a time when the Haitian and other governments, including the TCI and Bahamas are working hard to combat the spread of COVID-19.

As a longtime partner and friend of Haiti, the United States, like the Turks and Caicos Islands shares Haiti’s desire for a better future for its people and urge anyone against undertaking these voyages.