Turks and Caicos Islands: Update to TCA42549.E of 5 July 2004, situation of domestic violence; police response, protection and support services available to victims; problems of racial discrimination and availability of state protection (August 2001-2004)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||13 September 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||TCA42884.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turks and Caicos Islands: Update to TCA42549.E of 5 July 2004, situation of domestic violence; police response, protection and support services available to victims; problems of racial discrimination and availability of state protection (August 2001-2004) , 13 September 2004, TCA42884.E , available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df619328.html [accessed 31 July 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Information about the situation of domestic violence in the Turks and Caicos Islands was scarce among the documentary resources consulted by the Research Directorate.
In correspondence dated 10 September 2004, the gender affairs officer of the Ministry of Health, Social and Gender Affairs stated that for the most part, women who experience abuse from their partner "suffer in silence, simply because the country is so small and they are reluctant to let anyone know...because of false pride, shame or the stigma that goes with domestic violence."
Nevertheless, the gender affairs officer noted that there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of domestic violence, attributable in large part to the introduction of the gender affairs office and an improved awareness of this issue due to measures undertaken by this government bureau (10 Sept. 2004). Although more women are reporting cases of abuse, the majority withdraw their charges before they go to court (Turks and Caicos 10 Sept. 2004). Nevertheless, annual statistics on the number of incarcerations for domestic violence cases, as recorded by the gender affairs bureau are as follows: three for 1999, five for 2000, seven for 2001, four for 2002, and eight for 2003 (ibid.).
In a 30 August 2004 telephone interview, a police officer with the criminal investigations department of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force corroborated this information, stating that due to increased public awareness around the issue of domestic violence, more victims were reporting incidents. However, the officer observed, victims that report domestic violence are reluctant to press charges against an abusive partner (Turks and Caicos 30 Aug. 2004).
With regard to police response, the gender affairs officer claimed that the "police [are] now doing a better job in responding to these cases than before, simply because the Gender [Affairs] Desk puts a lot of pressure on them when they do not respond in a timely manner" (ibid. 10 Sept. 2004). Moreover, the gender affairs officer stated that her bureau is currently lobbying the government and the police to create a domestic violence unit within the police force (ibid.).
According to the police officer, although there is no particular police unit that handles domestic violence calls, the police do respond to domestic violence calls (ibid. 30 Aug. 2004). Generally, when police arrive on the scene of a domestic violence call, they take a statement from the victim and any witnesses who saw what happened (ibid.). If the victim has visible markings from physical abuse, such as bruises, she is taken to a doctor for a medical examination (ibid.). To report domestic violence, victims can call a hotline number (999) or police stations in Grand Turk (946-2299) or Providenciales (946-4259) (ibid.).
The gender affairs officer further stated that women fleeing a domestic violence situation do not have any "safe house" or shelter in which to seek refuge from an abusive partner (Turks and Caicos 10 Sept. 2004). While a local non-governmental organization called the Domestic Violence Foundation is "in the process of raising funds to build a safe house," the project is taking a long time and more funds are needed (ibid.). The police officer also noted that shelters for victims fleeing abuse are currently not available (ibid. 30 Aug. 2004). While there was a ground-breaking ceremony this year for a shelter to be built in Providenciales, the actual construction of this shelter has yet to begin (ibid.).
Both the police and gender affairs officer stated that limited services for victims of domestic violence do exist, such as legal aid provided by the Domestic Violence Foundation (ibid. 10 Sept. 2004), and counselling services provided by the social welfare department (ibid. 30 Aug. 2004).
Both the police and gender affairs officer also acknowledged that legislation on domestic violence in Turks and Caicos is insufficient (ibid. 10 Sept. 2004; ibid. 30 Aug. 2004). The gender affairs officer stated that the law was "archaic," and that a collaborative project involving the gender affairs bureau, the social welfare department and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States was aiming to introduce "new legislation on domestic violence and child abuse reform" (ibid. 10 Sept. 2004). The project is reportedly in its last phase before it can be taken to council (ibid.).
With regard to problems of racial discrimination, information was limited among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, according to media reports of 2002 and 2003, cases of discrimination against Haitian migrants by government institutions have occurred (BBC 19 Mar. 2003; ibid. 19 Dec. 2002; Latinamerica Press 2 July 2003). For example, in a December 2002 article, schools reportedly refused to register "dozens of children of Haitian descent," claiming that the prospective students did not have the proper documentation (BBC 19 Dec. 2002). News sources further noted that Haitian labourers are treated like illegal immigrants, facing immediate deportation if they lack proper documentation, even though they pay for annual work permits (ibid.; Latinamerica Press 2 July 2003). In a March 2003 update, the BBC further noted that many Haitian migrants are not able to access health care either (19 Mar. 2003).
On the issue of state protection, according to the Government of the United Kingdom's (UK's) Foreign & Commonwealth Office Website,
[t]he Turks and Caicos Islands are an internal self-governing British Overseas Territory with a ministerial system of government. The 1988 Constitution provides for a Governor appointed by HM [Her Majesty] the Queen, an Executive Council (Exco) and an elected Legislative Council (Legco). The Governor is responsible for external affairs, defence, internal security, offshore finance and certain other matters but is otherwise normally required to act on the advice of Exco (UK 14 July 2004).
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office also stated that legislation on Turks and Caicos Islands "should comply with the same international obligations to which Britain is subject" (ibid.).
In order to foster the advancement of human rights protocols, the UK government has reportedly initiated funding for human rights projects in various overseas territories such as Turks and Caicos Islands (UK n.d.). The goal of these projects is to increase human rights awareness and performance in all sectors of society and to develop comprehensive and current legislation in accordance with international treaties such as the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (ibid.).
Nevertheless, the BBC refuted the UK's authority in Turks and Caicos stating that in response to the plight of the Haitian migrants, the UK government has failed in "its legal duty to uphold human rights" (19 Mar. 2003). For instance, when the BBC asked the UK Foreign Office about the problems faced by Haitian migrants, the Foreign Office reportedly stated that the Turks and Caicos government is responsible for immigration issues (19 Dec. 2002).
In a 9 September 2004 telephone interview, the gender affairs coordinator of the Ministry of Health, Social and Gender Affairs explained that while a human rights ombudsman office does exist, it is currently inactive. In addition, although efforts to establish a human rights committee to address issues such as discrimination are reportedly being planned, nothing concrete has materialized (Turks and Caicos 9 Sept. 2004).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
BBC. 19 March 2003. Claire Bolderson. "Turks and Caicos: An Update."
_____. 19 December 2002. Claire Bolderson. "Turks and Caicos: Has Britain Broken its Promises?"
Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 2 July 2003. Charles Arthur. Vol. 35, No. 13. "Turks and Caicos Islands: Strong Economy, Weak Government."
Turks and Caicos. 10 September 2004. Ministry of Health, Social and Gender Affairs. Correspondence sent by gender affairs officer.
_____. 9 September 2004. Ministry of Health, Social and Gender Affairs. Telephone interview with gender affairs officer.
_____. 30 August 2004. Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, Providenciales. Telephone interview with an officer in the criminal investigations department.
United Kingdom. 14 July 2004. Foreign & Commonwealth Office. "Country Profiles: Turks & Caicos Islands."
_____. n.d. Foreign & Commonwealth Office. "Human Rights in the Overseas Territories."
Additional Sources Consulted
An official with the national government's social welfare department could not provide the information requested.
A representative of the Domestic Violence Foundation could not provide the information requested.
A representative of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office did not provide the information requested within time constraints.
Publications: Europa World Year Book 2004.
Internet: Amnesty International, Country Reports 2003, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Justice Study Center of the Americas, Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), World News Connection/Dialog.