British overseas territories plunge into “reckless” UNHCR over human trafficking

Lawyers representing seven Sri Lankan asylum seekers in the British Overseas Territories of the Caribbean said they had been treated “shamefully” by the Turks and Caicos Islands government.

However, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services at the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), describes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as “reckless” and “misplaced.”

Last month, seven Sri Lankans were detained at the Immigration Center for 11 months and then awarded $ 532,500 for arrest and imprisonment by the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Tim Prudhoe, one of the seven UK-born lawyers, described the Turks and Caicos Islands government as “xenophobic,” and told The Epoch Times: I was helped. “

The Turks and Caicos Islands, halfway between the Bahamas and Haiti, were parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Epoch Times Photo
Haiti deported from the United States will arrive at Toussaint Le Verture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 28, 2021. (AFP via Ricardo Arduengo / Files / Getty Images)

last month UNHCR worked on Caribbean government “To fulfill maritime rescue obligations” and “Ensure that all those in need of international protection are identified, unimpeded and provided with prompt access to fair asylum procedures.”

It will come later A boat to Florida carrying 842 Haitians After the captain abandoned the Cuban coast, it was launched on the Cuban coast.

But this week, the TCI government responded angry to the UNHCR statement.

In a statement, Musgrove urges other Caribbean countries to work harder to help those fleeing Haiti, where “deterioration of security and the rise of gangsters are intensifying.” Said.

Musgrove said: Their unrealistic demands on local governments to do more are nothing but reckless and wrong. Haiti has a population of 11.6 million. How can a small developing country like the Turks and Caicos Islands help that number of people, or even a small part of them? “

I noticed that the Turks and Caicos Islands are due north of Haiti and are on the wave of Haiti’s illegal immigrants to the United States.

In October 2019, a sloop carrying 154 illegal immigrants was intercepted in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Paid for travel to Canada

Most of the people on board were Haitians, but one Indian and 28 Sri Lankan Tamil men were also detained and later revealed to have paid traffickers up to $ 60,000 each.

Hayden Boyce, editor of the TCI Sun newspaper, told Epoch Times that Sri Lankans had relatives in Toronto and paid Canadian citizen Sri Kajamukam Chelliah to illegally smuggle into Canada when they couldn’t get a visa. ..

Chelliah has organized a detour route from Sri Lanka to Dubai, then to Cuba via Istanbul, and finally to Haiti. From there, I boarded a boat that was supposed to take me to Miami via the Bahamas. The plan was for them to travel by land to Buffalo and cross the border into Canada.

However, they only reached the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Turks and Caicos Islands are small archipelago that have been under British control since 1766 and were granted autonomy as an overseas territory in 1973.

Prudho said the Sri Lankans only spoke Tamil, suffered “terrible” months at the Immigration Detention Center in Providenciales, and then won their release through a series of legal challenges to their continued detention. rice field.

Many Sri Lankans have returned, but seven remain on the island, claiming asylum seeker before Prudho and his law firm each win about $ 75,000 in compensation for “false imprisonment” by the Immigration Bureau. I did.

In 2009, Tamil tiger rebels were defeated by Sri Lankan troops, and ongoing allegations have been filed since the Tamils ​​experienced human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka suffered from “white van treatment”

Prudho said that when the Sri Lankans finally started talking to UNHCR staff, they all had a similar story.

“Many of them suffered from what is known as” white van treatment. ” Vans were pulled up, they were detained, beaten, and later released for free. They are all terrible stories, “Prudho said.

In January 2021, the TCI Court of Appeals ruled that Sri Lankans had been illegally detained for long periods of time.

The 55-year-old Sheria was later handed over from the Turks and Caicos Islands to the United States and was imprisoned for 32 months in May 2021 for trafficking crimes.

Todd Bensman, a journalist and fellow at the Immigration Research Center, said she was not the first to be arrested for trafficking. In 2010, an FBI joint terrorist task force investigation revealed that he smuggled 1,750 Sri Lankans into Florida, but he was sentenced to only 18 months in a U.S. prison and “appeared unreformed.” “Did.

Human smuggler “Jeopardise National Security”

Deputy Assistant Attorney Brian C. Rabbit said: People facing the danger of maritime smuggling. “

Next month, a final hearing will be held on allegations that Sri Lankans have been denied the rights guaranteed under the TCI Constitution.

Proud Ho, who heads the legal team at the hearing, said: Similar problems should occur again. later. “

Andrea Mucino-Sanchez, a UNHCR spokesman and communications officer in the District of Columbia, said in an email to the Epoch Times: [TCI] Government for the next step following the asylum process. “

A statement from the TCI government said: .. “

Chris Summers


Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist with a particular interest in crime, police and law, covering stories from a wide range of countries.

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