RFA Mounts Bay, the North Atlantic patrol vessel, has been deployed to the Turks and Caicos Islands at short notice following a request from the islands Governor to address recent increase in illegal arrivals by Haitian sloops to the British territory.
The illegal sloops are bringing hundreds of migrants from neighbouring islands and have already stretched local law enforcement resources to breaking point. Local media reported that there were three such landings last week, the latest reported on Thursday March 15 when a sloop carrying approximately thirty individuals unloaded at the North West Point area of Providenciales. At least six of those arrivals have been detained and are awaiting processing, while the rest are believed to be at large.
Since January the islands’ authorities have already deported 290 individuals found to have illegally arrived in the territory, many of whom had found work in bars and construction sites. One reason for the increase in undetected arrivals has been the failure of the islands’ radar system, though funding has now been sourced from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to facilitate repairs.
RFA Mounts Bay will arrive in territorial waters on the afternoon of March 19th and will work alongside local law enforcement authorities, and regional partners, to conduct maritime and aerial surveillance and interdiction operations. It is hoped that the presence of the vessel will serve as a deterrence and that interdiction operations may take out key figures in the people smuggling operations.
Announcing the deployment to the local press the Acting Governor, Anya Williams, said she was “grateful that the UK government swiftly responding to our request to deploy FA Mounts Bay to the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
“The Royal Navy [RFA] ship will provide invaluable support to the [Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force] to help detect and interdict the illegal sloops heading to TCI while we focus on our internal operations. I have been in contact with the Commanding Officer of RFA Mounts Bay, Captain David Buck, to welcome him and his crew to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to thank them for swiftly deploying to TCI. I, along with the Commissioner of Police, will be meeting Captain Buck tomorrow to further discuss the ship’s operations here.”
RFA Mounts Bay has had a busy deployment since taking up the Atlantic Patrol Tasking – North having been involved in the initial and ongoing response to Hurricane Irma last year which devastated several British territories, on top of its regular constabulary duties.