Governor Nigel Dakin. Photo courtesy TCI Sun.
COCKBURN TOWN, Turks and Caicos--“This changes everything,” one young man remarked to Governor Nigel Dakin over the Christmas holidays as he was presented with his British Overseas Territory Citizenship (BOTC).
The young man is one of 10 children who call the “Provo Children’s Home” their home.
They all received their BOTCs in time for Christmas, a move the governor said had been expedited with the help of key persons in government departments.
The number of “stateless children” in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has been an issue for many years, one that Human Rights Commissioner Sabrina Greene recently told Weekly News she intends to address as a matter of importance in 2023.
In 2016, the United Nations recorded the number of stateless children at 2,000, in a published situational analysis of children in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
These children are primarily born in the TCI to parents who are not from the Islands, and as a result find themselves unable to get legal documentation that will allow them to live and work freely in TCI.
Governor Dakin, who presented the citizenship certificates to the 10 children just before the holiday, said: “It’s been a long time in coming. The adults who spend so much of their time supporting these children have been relentless in the pursuit of this – genuine champions.”
He said, so too have officials – Permanent Secretary James Astwood and before him Permanent Secretary Althea Been – who showed real leadership on the issue.
“All worked assiduously to ensure that citizenship could be proved and provided within the established process, not straightforward because of the nature of many of the children’s back-stories and the need to access documentation.
“Between us, we’d promised to have these matters resolved by Christmas – I’d told the children this in September when they’d explained to me the problems they faced – and so it was good to show our children that adults can and will keep their promises,” the governor said.
He added that the children are a fantastic example of the potential in these Islands: “First-class track and field athletes, football players, an amazing vocalist and ‘A-grade’ students were with me this week.”
He related that as he presented the certificate, one young man said to him, “This changes everything.”
“He is right, it does. It means these young people can now contribute productively to the future of these Islands, it means they can travel to represent the territory in sport, they can stabilise their future and much more.”
He reminded residents that as wards of the state, he and everyone else, carry many parental-type responsibilities towards these children. As such, it is a moment to be shared by all.
“So perhaps we can all wish all of them the very best for the coming year, as they celebrate their first Christmas with citizenship, and for the years beyond.”
He stressed that this was not a Christmas gift, as the children had a right to it, but that it was a promise kept.
“And it’s the promise of a better future that is one of the many reasons that makes Christmas so magical.” ~ Turks and Caicos Weekly News ~