On Thursday 2 December the governments of the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas, as represented by H.E. Nigel Dakin, CMG, Governor Turks and Caicos Islands and The Honourable Keith Richard Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration, with the TCI Minister of Immigration, The Honourable Arlington Musgrove, signed an important Agreement (MOU) to help strengthen maritime security by proactively addressing the challenge of illegal migration. The Agreement was signed on board RBDF ship, HMBS NASSAU. It was preceded by a maritime security strategic leadership conference hosted by TCI.
TCI, The Bahamas and the US currently work together on maritime security issues through OPBAT (Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos). This is an Agreement covering trilateral cooperation on counter-narcotics operations.
Negotiations began in 2018 on a TCI-Bahamas Shiprider Agreement to allow TCI and Bahamian “Shipriders” onto each other’s law enforcement vessels or aircraft. The Shiprider can grant authority to assist in the enforcement of TCI law relating to people trafficking, illegal migration, narcotics or firearms trafficking or unregulated fishing.
In 2019 TCI announced a new National Security Strategy, which placed the destabilising impacts of illegal migration and the devastating impact of hurricanes at the top of the agenda. The strategic leadership conference brought together senior military and government officials to consider the impact of transnational crime on The Bahamas and TCI. According to H.E. Governor Nigel Dakin, the conference participants discussed deepening “operational co-ordination; interoperability and training and; information and intelligence sharing.”
H.E. Sarah Dickson said: “The ability to enhance maritime security operations in both Bahamian and TCI waters is a welcome step in combatting illegal migration and strengthening maritime cooperation. I was pleased to have witnessed the signing of this historic Agreement during this OPBAT strategic leadership conference hosted by TCI. The conference laid out important maritime, security and disaster preparedness policy priorities for all parties involved. ”
TCI was represented by His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin and by The Honourable Minister Arlington Musgrove. The Bahamian delegation was led by the Minister for Labour Immigration The Honourable Keith Bell MP. The Acting Permanent Secretary for National Security, Carl Smith and the Commander of the Bahamas Defence Force, Dr Raymond King and his staff also attended the conference and hosted the signing ceremony.
For the US the delegation was led by the Miami based Commander of the US Coast Guard that operates across the Caribbean, Admiral McPherson, and his staff.
The British High Commissioner to The Bahamas, Sarah Dickson, and the US Charge d’Affaires, Usha Pitts, also attended, as well a senior British Naval Officer attached to the relevant US Combatant Command along with both UK Home Office and Border Force Officials. Linked to the conference two vessels, the ‘Venturous’ from the US Coast Guard and ‘HMBS Nassau’ from the Bahamas visited Grand Turk.