Turks and Caicos leader said to question UK’s alleged failure to keep residents safe | Turks and Caicos Islands
A diplomatic row has erupted over the UK’s alleged delay in helping an overseas territory tackle a string of murders and rampant drug trafficking.
The de facto head of state of the Turks and Caicos Islands has reportedly questioned whether the UK is failing in its duty to keep residents safe.
Diplomatic sources told the Guardian that the governor, Nigel Dakin, a national security expert who previously served in Washington and Kabul, said the initial support offered by the UK was insufficient.
Complaints have emerged that police sent from Britain to help have been ordered to stay in their hotel rooms by the Home Office, with several reconnaissance and fact-finding missions further delaying aid active.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Office bowed to pressure and announced that an auxiliary vessel from the Royal Fleet would be sent to the islands, along with specialist police from neighboring Caribbean countries.
While the Turks and Caicos Islands are self-governing, it is a British Overseas Territory and the UK is responsible for the safety of those there.
However, the situation on the islands quickly deteriorated, with 11 fatal shootings in September and four more in October – a high number for a territory of less than 50,000 people.
The islands’ police force came under attack from gangs, and in one particularly savage murder, a dozen men were said to have wandered the streets in search of their target.
Given the struggle to crack down on drug trafficking in the territory, sources said Dakin said other countries, including the United States and the Bahamas, had to step in.
According to local media, Dakin told residents last week that he had asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense for significant armed police and military support – and bet his work on a dramatic improvement in the assistance offered. by the British government.
Although the Foreign Office’s intervention on Tuesday means more help is on the way, Darkin reportedly issued an ultimatum that forced the UK to act quickly.
Insiders said he had accused UK ministers of potentially breaching their responsibility to protect the citizens of the islands, and suggested the same process triggered when Overseas Territories fail to meet their constitutional responsibilities should be used when the British government also does.
The process is known as a “commission of inquiry” and involves setting up an in-depth review to investigate a major issue and suggest actions to resolve it.
Chris Bryant, a Labor MP and former foreign secretary who ordered a commission of inquiry into the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009 over concerns about corruption, said Liz Truss, who was foreign minister until five weeks ago, was partly responsible.
“Once again, Liz Truss has been found wanting,” Bryant said. “There were a multitude of warnings, but she, as foreign minister, did nothing.
“This is the most extraordinary charge of dereliction of duty by a Foreign Office appointee against a Foreign Secretary that I have heard of.”
The Foreign Office declined to comment, but British police originally sent are believed to have made a routine visit to train and assess local police forces. They were told to stay in their hotels when the violence escalated and to return home later.
Since the arrival of 24 armed Bahamian police last Friday, the violence has reportedly decreased significantly.