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Turks and Caicos in spotlight after migrants killed in boat accident

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Turks and Caicos Islands are in the spotlight after 17 people died in a boat accident on Christmas day, according to a Dec. 25 Associated Press news report. The victims drowned when their overloaded sailboat capsized, while being escorted to the Turks and Caicos shores.

Originally carrying over 50 passengers, the boat capsized approximately 150 yards from the Providenciales Island, government spokesman Neil Smith said, adding that while the cause was not known, overloading was a probable factor.

CNN reports that earlier reports had put the death toll at 18, and that the nationalities of the victims were not clear. Other reports indicate they may be Haitian migrants. The death toll includes 12 males and 5 females, according to Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force Commissioner Colin Farquhar. Commissioner Farquhar added that the search for additional casualties would continue on Thursday.

The Commissioner also noted that 33 individuals, including 21 men, 1 child and 12 females had been detained as suspected illegal Haitian migrants, and “will be repatriated to Haiti at the earliest opportunity.”

In a statement issued on its Facebook page, the Turks and Caicos Islands government said that vessel, believed to be carrying suspected illegal migrants was intercepted by the Marine branch of the island’s police force in the early hours of Christmas Day, and that two hours later, on its way to dock, it capsized.

The investigation into the accident is ongoing. “The stricken vessel has now been removed from the water and will be central to our ongoing investigations into this matter,” Commissioner Farquhar said. “We must all remain vigilant to combat illegal migration.”

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