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UK priority amid Haiti violence is securing Turks and Caicos Islands – Cameron

The UK’s priority in terms of rising violence in Haiti is to secure the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands, Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton told peers in Westminster that the focus should be on these islands, as they are a British Overseas Territory and there are concerns over their borders and security.

He added that Britain does not lead on issues relating to Haiti, but that the Government would support Caricom, a political and economic union in the Caribbean, in helping resolve the situation.

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Lord Cameron told the House of Lords during ministerial questions: “The UK is concerned about the worsening violence in Haiti and the impact on the neighbouring Turks and Caicos islands …

“I think our priority should be to focus on the Turks and Caicos Islands, they are an overseas territory.

“We are looking to deploy a reconnaissance team there, because there are concerns about their borders and their security and I think that should be our focus immediately, while offering help, assistance and advice to the people of Haiti and to the Caricom nations that are coming together to try and help.”

He added: “We will work very closely with the Turks and Caicos Islands’ government. We’re currently funding police officers there, we’re currently helping with border security – we’re going to be sending this reconnaissance mission to help them in terms of their border security.

“If there are additional burdens and additional needs, I’m sure that we will entertain those.”

His comments came after the Haitian prime minister Ariel Henry resigned amid a breakdown in law and order in the country.

Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry
Haitian prime minister Ariel Henry resigned amid a breakdown in law and order in the country (Andrew Kasuku/AP)

Haiti, which has become overwhelmed by gang violence, has seen thousands of inmates broken out of its prisons.

While the UK has no bilateral deal with Haiti, it contributes around £30 million a year through international agencies.

Lord Cameron continued: “Haiti is not where Britain has tried to lead.

“We have many countries and places where we feel we either have special knowledge or a special relationship or existing partnerships.

“This has always been somewhere where we contribute, I think our contribution is £30 million (£235 million) a year through the international bodies, but it’s not one where we’ve chosen to lead.

“We’ve left that to the Canadians and the Americans and others who have more expertise.”

A demonstrator holds up a Haitian flag
A demonstrator holds up a Haitian flag during protests earlier in the month (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

He added: “As they say, if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.”

It is understood that the US will contributed 300 million US dollars to a multinational security mission to Haiti, with 1,000 troops from Kenya.

Lord Cameron said of the US-funded, Kenyan-led mission: “It’s not something that Britain will contribute to in terms of personnel, but we are happy to make a small contribution in terms of finance.”

Former Foreign Office minister Lord Bellingham warned that the Turks and Caicos Islands could see an influx of refugees, as was seen after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

He told peers that the earthquake triggered “at least 2,500 refugees coming from Haiti to the Turks and Caicos Islands and many of them were indeed refugees who arrived illegally”.

He added: “While the Foreign Secretary is obviously going to put emphasis on helping the Turks and Caicos Islands with security and their borders, some refugees will need help on the ground.”

Labour peer Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, who was ordained as a Methodist minister in Haiti and lived there in the 1970s, said: “I can’t bear to think of the kind of suffering that the people of Haiti are undergoing at this time.”