IOM Study Focuses on Haitian Migration in the Turks and Caicos Islands
A new IOM study on Haitian migrants in the Turks and Caicos Islands
confirms that the economic downturn that began in 2008, which
prompted a drop in tourism and lowered the demand for unskilled
labour, has increased general resentment on the part of the general
population leading to the discrimination and sometimes hostile
treatment of Haitian migrants.
With the development of the tourist industry, the population of
TCI increased from around 5,000 in 1970 to nearly 20,000 in 2001.
Between 1990 and 2001, the population doubled from 10,000 to
target="_blank">The Characteristics and Impact of Haitian
Migration in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Haitian migrant labour filled the demand for low-skilled jobs
during the dramatic growth of tourism and financial services and
the accompanying construction boom from the early 1990s. Although
continued growth depended on the availability of cheap labour, the
arrival of Haitian migrants continued in excess of the demand,
especially since the economic downturn of 2008.
The Haitian-born population and children born to Haitian parents
comprise a significant proportion of the population of TCI, but
there are no data on the actual numbers, their distribution across
the archipelago and their demographic, socio-economic and housing
Interviews conducted with 350 Haitian migrant households in TCI
revealed strong links with the country of origin via remittances
sent to families left behind, in many cases spouses and children,
and regular return visits by the migrants.
But the interviews also demonstrate the characteristics of a
migrant community in transition that is becoming a settled
community and a permanent component of the TCI population through
property and business ownership.
Professor Elizabeth Thomas-Hope, of the University of the West
Indies and author of the study cautions: “The second
generation will become increasingly ‘trapped’, not
solely between two cultures, but also between two identities and
loyalties. The extent to which their identity is in conflict with
the opportunities for economic advancement and political
representation, will be the extent of their counter
Some of the main findings of the study include:
- Less than half of the sample population (42 per cent) was
employed at the time of the survey.
- Of those employed, only 21 per cent had steady employment.
Nearly 50 per cent had occasional or seasonal employment.
- The average amount paid to obtain a work permit was US$1,617;
some respondents paid US$3,000 or more.
- Most persons in the sample said they had been apprehended by
the police on the street in the previous year. Some said they were
stopped 45 times or more in the past year.
- One third of the sample population (33 per cent) had to pay
money in order to be released or treated well by the police.
- Four per cent of those interviewed have lived in TCI for 20
years or more; 14 per cent were born in TCI.
- An estimated 2,000 children and adolescents in TCI are
- Over a quarter of the population surveyed (27 per cent)
indicated that they would like to settle permanently in TCI; but 45
per cent indicated that they do not want to do so; and 28 per cent
- More than half of the sample population (51 per cent) lived in
- Less than half of the sample (45 per cent) had electricity in
- Some 62 per cent had neither an indoor toilet nor an outside
latrine. Basic furniture, such as beds, was absent from a large
number of dwellings.
The study also points to some perceived negative effects due to
the massive influx of migrants, including pressure on health
services and education system, limited natural resources on the
islands to provide sufficient food, and the management of sewage
and solid waste.
The study recommendations include: a) using the population
census to adequately obtain data for forward planning; b) carrying
out urgently needed legal changes pertaining to nationality and
residency, especially related to citizenship, statelessness and
voting rights; and c) building capacity in order to tackle existing
problems by forging partnerships between public and private sectors
and civil society with representation of both Turks and Caicos
Islanders and Haitians.
TCI is a British Overseas Territory located southeast of The
Bahamas and north of the island of Hispaniola and made up of eight
major islands and more than 299 smaller uninhabited cays, with a
total area of some 616.3 square kilometres.
The study was funded by the United States Department of State
Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (PRM).
The study is available at the IOM
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