By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI -- In mid May, a young Haitian woman and her ten-year-old daughter found that, after five years of legal residency in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), due to government policy they had to return to Haiti to join her siste’rs family struggling in Haiti to survive. She did not want to leave and she had to remove her child, a talented youngster, from school, losing an entire school year of class work. Local sources reported they and other residents had tears streaming down their faces as they left.
The Haitian woman was employed taking care of a bedridden senior Turks and Caicos Islander. The senior, distressed by the woman's leaving, was also tearful. The woman’s departure surprised local residents, as she had kept her status secret because of government policy.
However, due to an expired work permit, which was in the process of renewal, with fees already paid, the Haitian woman yielded to pressure from her estranged husband who now resides as an illegal resident in the USA. An interview with the woman revealed the husband is jealous and had threatened to call the local TCI Immigration Office, who would then be forced due to government policy to arrest the woman and child.
The woman reported to the interviewer that she has no knowledge of her husband’s intend to petition the US government to bring her and her child to the US at some future time. Other Haitians are reporting that the man has grown children from a current first wife still in Haiti.
The woman has also reported she also was under pressure from a local Jamaican woman who wanted her job. This Jamaican had walked off the same job years prior. The Jamaican woman's work permit under her current employer is expiring and not due to be renewed. This woman is now canvassing locals for loans as she prepares to leave if unable to find new employment.
Minister of Immigration DonHue Gardiner
It has been the policy of the current immigration minister DonHue Gardiner to pressure Haitians to leave TCI. This was disclosed in one of the early House of Assembly meetings following the end of British-imposed direct rule in Nevember 2012, when the minister stunned the territory, saying he intended to make illegal immigrants’ lives “unbearable”
as he used his powers to hunt them down.
Repeated landings of illegal Haitian sloops overloaded with people and subsequent repatriations have given meaning to the minister’s statement.
Gardiner revealed in the most recent House meeting that he has given up trying to conclude a memorandum of understanding on immigration with the Haitian government, after being in negotiations with Haitian officials for over a year. It is believed by Turks and Caicos Islanders that the minister’s reputation and earlier statement soured his ability to negotiate.
Five- and six-month delays in the issue of work permits and hundreds of repatriations have driven many Haitians underground after previously holding legal work permits. With the TCI’s non-tourism related economy in serious decline, many Haitian nationals who have been legally employed for years now struggle to survive.
With new hotel developments stalled, there is little construction work and TC Islanders have been pressuring government for work. This is believed to be at least one reason behind the government’s policy to pressure work permit holders to leave. However, the work performed by the Haitians is not what the TC Islanders are petitioning for.
The government has recently announced it will not approve any new work permits until employment is stabilized. However, the government continues to approve massive renewals of work permits held by foreign workers in the existing hotel industry.