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Britain tightens Turks and Caicos security after Haiti violence

FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary David Cameron walks at Downing Street in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it had agreed a security package to protect the borders of the Turks and Caicos Islands - a British Overseas Territory - in response to the risk violence in Haiti could spread.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are 200 miles (322 km) from Haiti, where a political and social crisis has led to weeks of escalating violence and heavily armed gangs have tightened their grip on the capital Port-au-Prince

The British Foreign Office said the package was designed to "respond to the risk of gang violence and illegal migration from Haiti spilling over into the wider Caribbean".

Britain said it would send equipment for the local police to combat serious crime, coastal sensors, and border security upgrades including surveillance drones. Britain would also source maritime patrol craft to send to the islands.

“The safety and security of people in the Turks and Caicos Islands is vital following the terrible escalation of violence we have seen in Haiti," Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement.

“In addition to our existing support, these measures will help the brave officers of the Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police Force to tackle the threat of illegal migration and gang violence."

A reconnaisance team made up of British border officials and international policing experts had also been sent to assess what further support the islands required, the Foreign Office said.

Britain said the Turks and Caicos Islands had been experiencing a surge in violent crime and last month sent specialist firearams and investigators. In 2022 it deployed a serious crime team there.

"The UK remains committed to supporting a Haitian-led political solution to the escalating violence in the country and the efforts of Caribbean partners to agree a return to security and stability," the British statement added.

U.S. authorities have bolstered security to help U.S. nationals leave Haiti, while in the U.S. state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, an anti-immigration hardliner, said state law enforcement would deploy more than 250 additional officers and soldiers and more than a dozen air and sea vessels to the southern coast "to protect our state".

(Reporting by William James; editing by Barbara Lewis)