Defense Media Network

Turks and Caicos Islands Has an Important Maritime Security Role in the Caribbean

Small nation uses sophisticated surveillance for safety, security and sovereignty

“Having another radar site, perhaps on Great Inagua Island, that could be linked to the one we have here in Providenciales to give us a common operating picture … [or] if we could get several radar sites that are all linked and can support each other and cue each other to monitor or, if needed, investigate certain vessels would be really special for this area.”

“There are a lot of stories about the vessels coming north and then capsizing, and we don’t know how many people have actually perished,” Farquhar says.

The way the TCI Police see it, their job is not just a law enforcement mission. It’s a sovereignty mission.

They don’t want the illegal migrants to get ashore. “If we take control of them here, Immigration has the issues of detention and then the repatriation of them, which is logistically very complex and also very expensive.”

Turks and Caicos police boat

A Turks and Caicos Police boat. The nation doesn’t have a navy or air force. Turks and Caicos Police photo

Turks and Caicos Islands Permanent Secretary for Border Control and Labour Clara Gardiner says the TCI coastal surveillance system is effective. “When the radar detects a target, the police can then go out quite quickly and investigate that target, and do whatever is necessary to bring in people safely to shore, as well as the vessel.”

Farquhar says cargo ships need to be inspected, too, to ensure they comply with all laws and regulations, and ensure they are not smuggling. “With the larger freight vessels, there are a lot of hiding places on board – it’s left up to the imagination as to where things are hidden.”

The way the TCI Police see it, their job is not just a law enforcement mission. It’s a sovereignty mission.


International Cooperation

Gardiner has a message for the people in Haiti. “We want them to understand that it’s not worth the expense of paying a smuggler to get them out.”

Gardiner says the authorities in the TCI and Haiti are working together to convince Haitians of the danger of trying to leave by boat. “The likelihood that they would be caught is pretty high; and they will have to be returned. Worse yet, it could result in their death.”

According to Farquhar the police force has excellent operational working agreements with cross border enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, DEA, and the FBI. “We do share a lot of information with the FBI. A lot of people that come through this area are from the U.S. or heading towards the U.S., so that’s of interest to them. So it’s about sharing information. I can call my FBI counterpart in Nassau and ask almost anything of him and get the support that we need. So we do have a really good working relationship.”

The Turks and Caicos Islands will be hosting the Maritime Security 2013 Caribbean conference Nov. 5-6 on Providenciales. The conference will address challenges, successes and solutions to maritime security through the use of presentations, discussions and interactive panels, and Caribbean law enforcement and government personnel will take away actionable strategies, awareness of the latest efficient tools, and a renewed sense of partnership with fellow stakeholders from across the region, according to the conference website. European and North American law enforcement and government personnel are encouraged to participate in the event’s dialogue, toward gaining a fresh perspective and expanding networking capability to enhance a future Caribbean maritime security strategy.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...