Friday, July 30, 2021

20 people found dead on boat drifting in Caribbean

The islands have been used as a trans-shipment point by human traffickers.

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A boat has been found drifting about a mile off Grand Turk island with 20 dead people on board, including two children, authorities in the Turks and Caicos Islands said on Sunday.

Officials said investigators are still trying to determine what had happened. The identities and origin of the dead are also under investigation.

Fishermen spotted the small boat Thursday morning and alerted the marine branch of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, who towed the vessel ashore.

The police communications officer, Takara Bain, said in a news release that investigators had discounted foul play and were looking at other possibilities, without giving any specifics.

Police Commissioner Trevor Botting said the boat appeared to have come from outside the Caribbean and authorities did not think the Turks and Caicos had been its destination.

“My investigators are working to establish their identities and how they met their death,” Botting said.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic Ocean and northern West Indies. They are known primarily for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.

Grand Turk Island lies about 1,000km southeast of Miami, US.

The Turks and Caicos are often a magnet for desperate Haitians seeking to flee their poverty-stricken nation and the territory has also been used as a trans-shipment point by human traffickers.

In June 2020, Sri Lanka-born Canadian citizen Srikajamukam Chelliah pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges before a Turks and Caicos judge and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

He was extradited to Florida and sentenced in February to 32 months in prison for conspiring to smuggle people into the US.

Chelliah had been caught in August 2019 skippering a boat carrying 158 people, including 28 Sri Lankans. They told investigators they were bound for the US.

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