Turks and Caicos Islands
Location of Turks and Caicos Islands (circled in red)
|Status||British Overseas Territory|
|Demonym(s)||Turks and Caicos Islander|
|Government||Dependency under constitutional monarchy|
|Legislature||House of Assembly|
|616.3 km2 (238.0 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
• 2012 census
|80/km2 (207.2/sq mi)|
|Currency||United States dollar (USD)|
|Time zone||UTC–5 (Eastern Time)|
• Summer (DST)
|Date format||dd mm yyyy (AD)|
|ISO 3166 code||TC|
UK Postcode TKCA 1ZZ
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI; // and /
The Turks and Caicos Islands lie southeast of Mayaguana in the Bahamas island chain, northeast of Cuba, and north of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Cockburn Town, the capital since 1766, is situated on Grand Turk Island about 1,042 kilometres (647 mi) east-southeast of Miami, United States. The islands have a total land area of 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi).[b]
The first recorded European sighting of the islands now known as the Turks and Caicos occurred in 1512. In the subsequent centuries, the islands were claimed by several European powers with the British Empire eventually gaining control. For many years the islands were governed indirectly through Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the islands received their own governor, and have remained a separate autonomous British Overseas Territory since.
The first inhabitants of the islands were Arawakan-speaking Taíno people, who crossed over from Hispaniola some time from AD 500 to 800. Together with Taino who migrated from Cuba to the southern Bahamas around the same time, these people developed as the Lucayan. Around 1200, the Turks and Caicos Islands were resettled by Classical Taínos from Hispaniola.
Soon after the Spanish arrived in the islands in 1512, they began capturing the Taíno of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Lucayan as slaves (technically, as workers in the encomienda system) to replace the largely depleted native population of Hispaniola. The southern Bahama Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands were completely depopulated by about 1513, and remained so until the 17th century.
The first European documented to sight the islands was Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, who did so in 1512. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the islands passed from Spanish to French, to British control, but none of the three powers ever established any settlements.
Bermudian salt collectors settled the Turks Islands around 1680. For several decades around the turn of the 18th century, the islands became popular pirate hideouts. From 1765–1783, the islands were under French occupation, and again after the French captured the archipelago in 1783.
After the American War of Independence (1775–1783), many Loyalists fled to British Caribbean colonies; in 1783, they were the first settlers on the Caicos Islands. They developed cotton as an important cash crop, but it was superseded by the development of the salt industry.
In 1799, both the Turks and the Caicos island groups were annexed by Britain as part of the Bahamas. The processing of sea salt was developed as a highly important export product from the West Indies, with the labour done by African slaves. Salt continued to be a major export product into the nineteenth century.
In 1807, Britain prohibited the slave trade and, in 1833, abolished slavery in its colonies. British ships sometimes intercepted slave traders in the Caribbean, and some ships were wrecked off the coast of these islands. In 1837, the Esperanza, a Portuguese slaver, was wrecked off East Caicos, one of the larger islands. While the crew and 220 captive Africans survived the shipwreck, 18 Africans died before the survivors were taken to Nassau. Africans from this ship may have been among the 189 liberated Africans whom the British colonists settled in the Turks and Caicos from 1833 to 1840.
In 1841, the Trouvadore, an illegal Spanish slave ship, was wrecked off the coast of East Caicos. All the 20-man crew and 192 captive Africans survived the sinking. Officials freed the Africans and arranged for 168 persons to be apprenticed to island proprietors on Grand Turk Island for one year. They increased the small population of the colony by seven percent. Numerous descendants have come from those free Africans. The remaining 24 were resettled in Nassau. The Spanish crew were also taken there, to be turned over to the custody of the Cuban consul and taken to Cuba for prosecution. An 1878 letter documents the "Trouvadore Africans" and their descendants as constituting an essential part of the "labouring population" on the islands.
In 2004, marine archaeologists affiliated with the Turks and Caicos National Museum discovered a wreck, called the "Black Rock Ship", that subsequent research has suggested may be that of the Trouvadore. In November 2008, a cooperative marine archaeology expedition, funded by the United States NOAA, confirmed that the wreck has artefacts whose style and date of manufacture link them to the Trouvadore.
In 1848, Britain designated the Turks and Caicos as a separate colony under a council president. In 1873, the islands were made part of the Jamaica colony; in 1894, the chief colonial official was restyled commissioner. In 1917, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden suggested that the Turks and Caicos join Canada, but this suggestion was rejected by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. The islands remained a dependency of Jamaica.
On 4 July 1959, the islands were again designated as a separate colony, the last commissioner being restyled administrator. The governor of Jamaica also continued as the governor of the islands. When Jamaica was granted independence from Britain in August 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a Crown colony. Beginning in 1965, the governor of the Bahamas was also governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands and oversaw affairs for the islands.
When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the Turks and Caicos received their own governor (the last administrator was restyled). In 1974, Canadian New Democratic Party MP Max Saltsman tried to use his Private Member's Bill for legislation to annex the islands to Canada, but it did not pass in the House of Commons of Canada.
Since August 1976, the islands have had their own government headed by a chief minister (now premier), the first of whom was James Alexander George Smith McCartney.
The islands' political troubles in the early 21st century resulted in a rewritten constitution promulgated in 2006. In 2009, after Premier Michael Misick resigned in the face of corruption charges, the United Kingdom took over direct control of the government. A new constitution was promulgated in October 2012 and the government was returned to local administration after the November 2012 elections.
In the 2016 elections, Rufus Ewing's Progressive National Party (PNP) lost for the first time since they replaced Derek Hugh Taylor's government in 2003. The People's Democratic Movement (PDM) came to power with Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson as Premier.
The two island groups are in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas, northeast of Cuba, about 160 kilometres (99 mi) north of Hispaniola, and about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Miami in the United States, at . The territory is geographically contiguous to the Bahamas, both comprising the Lucayan Archipelago, but is politically a separate entity. The Caicos Islands are separated by the Caicos Passage from the closest Bahamian islands, Mayaguana and Great Inagua. The nearest foreign landmass from the Turks and Caicos Islands is the island of Little Inagua, about 30 miles from West Caicos.
The eight main islands and more than 299 smaller islands have a total land area of 616.3 square kilometres (238.0 square miles),[b] consisting primarily of low, flat limestone with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps and 332 square kilometres (128 sq mi) of beach front. The weather is usually sunny (it is generally regarded that the islands receive 350 days of sun each year) and relatively dry, but suffers frequent hurricanes. The islands have limited natural fresh water resources; private cisterns collect rainwater for drinking. The primary natural resources are spiny lobster, conch, and other shellfish.
The two distinct island groups are separated by the Turks Islands Passage.
The Turks Islands are separated from the Caicos Islands by Turks Island Passage, which is more than 2,200 m (7,200 ft) deep. The islands form a chain that stretches north–south. The 2012 Census population was 4,939 on the two main islands, the only inhabited islands of the group:
Together with nearby islands, all on Turks Bank, those two main islands form the two administrative districts of the territory (out of six in total) that fall within the Turks Islands. Turks Bank, which is smaller than Caicos Bank, has a total area of about 324 km2 (125 sq mi).
25 kilometres (16 mi) east of the Turks Islands and separated from them by Mouchoir Passage is the Mouchoir Bank. Although it has no emergent cays or islets, some parts are very shallow and the water breaks on them. Mouchoir Bank is part of the Turks and Caicos Islands and falls within its Exclusive Economic Zone. It measures 960 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in area. Two banks further east, Silver Bank and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation, but belong politically to the Dominican Republic.
The largest island in the Caicos archipelago is the sparsely-inhabited Middle Caicos, which measures 144 square kilometres (56 sq mi) in area, but has a population of only 168 at the 2012 Census. The most populated island is Providenciales, with 23,769 inhabitants in 2012, and an area of 122 square kilometres (47 sq mi). North Caicos (116 square kilometres (45 sq mi) in area) had 1,312 inhabitants. South Caicos (21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi) in area) had 1,139 inhabitants, and Parrot Cay (6 square kilometres (2.3 sq mi) in area) had 131 inhabitants. East Caicos (which is administered as part of South Caicos District) is uninhabited, while the only permanent inhabitants of West Caicos (administered as part of Providenciales District) are resort staff.
The Turks and Caicos Islands feature tropical climate, with relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year. Summertime temperatures rarely exceed 33 °C (91 °F) and winter nighttime temperatures rarely fall below 18 °C (64 °F).
|Climate data for Turks and Caicos Islands : Grand Turk|
|Average high °C (°F)||27
|Average low °C (°F)||23
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||36.1
|Source: Weather.com Weatherbase.com|
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory. As a British territory, its sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, represented by a governor appointed by the monarch, on the advice of the Foreign Office. With the election of the territory's first Chief Minister, J.A.G.S. McCartney, the islands first adopted a constitution on 30 August 1976. The national holiday, Constitution Day, is celebrated annually on 30 August.
The territory's legal system is based on English common law, with a small number of laws adopted from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of age. English is the official language. Grand Turk is the administrative and political capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cockburn Town has been the seat of government since 1766.
The Turks and Caicos Islands participate in the Caribbean Development Bank, is an associate in CARICOM, member of the Universal Postal Union and maintains an Interpol sub-bureau. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization includes the territory on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Under the new Constitution that came into effect in October 2012, legislative power is held by a unicameral House of Assembly, consisting of 19 seats, 15 elected and 4 appointed by the governor; of elected members, five are elected at large and 10 from single-member districts for four-year terms.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are divided into six administrative districts (two in the Turks Islands and four in the Caicos Islands), headed by district commissioners. For the House of Assembly, the Turks and Caicos Islands are divided into 15 electoral districts (four in the Turks Islands and eleven in the Caicos Islands).
The judicial branch of government is headed by a Supreme Court; appeals are heard by the Court of Appeal and final appeals by the United Kingdom's Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There are three justices of the Supreme Court, a Chief Justice and two others. The Court of Appeal consists of a president and at least two justices of appeal.
Magistrates' Courts are the lower courts and appeals from Magistrates' Courts are sent to the Supreme Court.
As of September 2014, the Chief Justice is Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale.
|Census population and average annual growth rate|
Eight of the thirty islands in the territory are inhabited, with a total population estimated from preliminary results of the census of 25 January 2012 (released on 12 August 2012) of 31,458 inhabitants, an increase of 58.2% from the population of 19,886 reported in the 2001 census. One-third of the population is under 15 years old, and only 4% are 65 or older. In 2000 the population was growing at a rate of 3.55% per year. The infant mortality rate was 18.66 deaths per 1,000 live births and the life expectancy at birth was 73.28 years (71.15 years for males, 75.51 years for females). The total fertility rate was 3.25 children born per woman. The annual population growth rate is 2.82%.
The adult population is composed of 57.5% immigrants. The CIA World Factbook describes the islanders' ethnicity as African 87%, European 7.9%, Mixed 2.5.%, East Indian 1.3% and Other 0.7%
|Average population (x 1000)||Live births||Deaths||Natural change||Crude birth rate (per 1000)||Crude death rate (per 1000)||Natural change (per 1000)|
|South Caicos||Cockburn Harbour||21.2||2,013|
|West Caicos||New Marina||28||10 (Employees of new resort)|
|Pine Cay||South Bay Village||3.2||30 (Resort Staff)|
|Parrot Cay||Parrot Cay Village||5||90 (Half resort staff, half residential)|
|North Caicos||Bottle Creek||116.4||2,066|
|Middle Caicos||Conch Bar||136||522|
|Ambergris Cays||Big Ambergris Cay||10.9||50|
|Other Caicos Islands||East Caicos||146.5||0|
|Grand Turk||Cockburn Town||17.6||8,051|
|Salt Cay||Balfour Town||7.1||315|
|Other Turks Islands||Cotton Cay||2.4||0|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Cockburn Town||616.3||49000|
The official language of the islands is English and the population also speaks Turks and Caicos Islands Creole which is similar to Bahamian Creole. Due to its close proximity to Cuba and Hispaniola, large Haitian Creole and Spanish-speaking communities have developed in the territory due to immigration, both legal and illegal, from Creole-speaking Haiti and from Spanish-speaking Cuba and Dominican Republic.
72.8% of the population of Turks and Caicos are Christian (Baptists 35.8%, Church of God 11.7%, Roman Catholics 11.4%, Anglicans 10%, Methodists 9.3%, Seventh-day Adventists 6%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.8% and Others 14%).
The Turks and Caicos Islands are best known for ripsaw music. The islands are known for their annual Music and Cultural Festival showcasing many local talents and other dynamic performances by many music celebrities from around the Caribbean and United States.
Women continue traditional crafts of using a straw to make baskets and hats on the larger Caicos islands. It is possible that this continued tradition is related to the liberated Africans who joined the population directly from Africa in the 1830s and 1841 from shipwrecked slavers; they brought cultural craft skills with them.
Because the Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory and not an independent country, they, at one time, could not confer citizenship. Instead, people with close ties to Britain's Overseas Territories all held the same nationality: British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981 and subsequent amendments. BOTC, however, does not confer any right to live in any British Overseas Territory, including the territory from which it is derived. Instead, the rights normally associated with citizenship derive from what is called Belonger status and island natives or descendants from natives are said to be Belongers.
In 2002, the British Overseas Territories Act restored full British citizenship status to all citizens of British Overseas Territories, including the Turks and Caicos.
Public education is supported by taxation and is mandatory for children aged five to sixteen. Primary education lasts for six years and secondary education lasts for five years. In the 1990s, the island nation launched the Primary In-Service Teacher Education Project (PINSTEP) in an effort to increase the skills of its primary school teachers, nearly one-quarter of whom were unqualified. Turks and Caicos also worked to refurbish its primary schools, reduce textbook costs, and increase equipment and supplies given to schools. For example, in September 1993, each primary school was given enough books to allow teachers to establish in-class libraries. In 2001, the student-teacher ratio at the primary level was roughly 15:1. The Turks and Caicos Islands Community College offers free higher education to students who have successfully completed their secondary education. The community college also oversees an adult literacy program. The Ministry of Health, Education, Youth, Sports, and Women's Affairs oversees education in Turks and Caicos. Once a student completes their education at Turks and Caicos Islands Community College, they are allowed to further their education at a university in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom for free. They have to commit to working in The Turks and Caicos Islands for four years to receive this additional education.
The Turks and Caicos established a National Health System in 2010. Residents contribute to a National Health Insurance Plan through salary deduction and nominal user fees. Majority of care is provided by the private-public-partnership hospitals in Providenciales and Grand Turk. In addition, there are a number of government clinics and private clinics. The hospital opened in 2010 is administered by Interhealth Canada and has been accredited by Accreditation Canada in 2012 and 2015.
The salt industry, along with small sponge and hemp exports, sustained the Turks and Caicos Islands (only barely, however; there was little population growth and the economy stagnated) until in the 1960s when American investors arrived on the islands and funded the construction of an airstrip on Provo Island and built the archipelago's first hotel, "The Third Turtle". A small trickle of tourists began to arrive, supplementing the salt economy. Club Med set up a resort at Grace Bay soon after. In the 1980s, Club Med funded an upgrading of the airstrip to allow for larger aircraft, and since then, tourism has been gradually on the increase. It is common for foreign couples to be married in the Turks and Caicos Islands today.
In 2009, GDP contributions were as follows: Hotels & Restaurants 34.67%, Financial Services 13.12%, Construction 7.83%, Transport, Storage & Communication 9.90%, and Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities 9.56%.[clarification needed] Most capital goods and food for domestic consumption are imported.
In 2010/2011, major sources of government revenue included Import Duties (43.31%), Stamp Duty on Land Transaction (8.82%), Work Permits and Residency Fees (10.03%) and Accommodation Tax (24.95%). The territory's gross domestic product as of late 2009 is approximately US$795 million (per capita $24,273).
The labour force totalled 27,595 workers in 2008. The labour force distribution in 2006 is as follows:
The unemployment rate in 2008 was 8.3%. In 2007–2008, the territory took in revenues of $206.79 million against expenditures of $235.85 million. In 1995, the island received economic aid worth $5.7 million. The territory's currency is the United States dollar, with a few government fines (such as airport infractions) being payable in pounds sterling. Most commemorative coin issues are denominated in crowns.
The primary agricultural products include limited amounts of maize, beans, cassava (tapioca) and citrus fruits. Fish and conch are the only significant export, with some $169.2 million of lobster, dried and fresh conch, and conch shells exported in 2000, primarily to the United Kingdom and the United States. In recent years, however, the catch has been declining. The territory used to be an important trans-shipment point for South American narcotics destined for the United States, but due to the ongoing pressure of a combined American, Bahamian and Turks and Caicos effort this trade has been greatly reduced.
The islands import food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, manufacture and construction materials, primarily from the United States and the United Kingdom. Imports totalled $581 million in 2007.
The islands produce and consume about 5 GWh of electricity, per year, all of which comes from fossil fuels.
The United States was the leading source of tourists in 1996, accounting for more than half of the 87,000 visitors; another major source of tourists is Canada. Tourist arrivals had risen to 264,887 in 2007 and to 351,498 by 2009. In 2010, a total of 245 cruise ships arrived at the Grand Turk Cruise Terminal, carrying a total of 617,863 visitors.
The government is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to increase tourism. Upscale resorts are aimed at the wealthy, while a large new cruise ship port and recreation centre has been built for the masses visiting Grand Turk. Turks and Caicos Islands has one of the longest coral reefs in the world and the world's only conch farm.
The French vacation village company of Club Mediterannee (Club Med) has an all-inclusive adult resort called 'Turkoise' on one of the main islands.
Several Hollywood stars have built homes in the Turks and Caicos, including Dick Clark and Bruce Willis. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner married on Parrot Cay in 2005. Actress Eva Longoria and her ex-husband Tony Parker went to the islands for their honeymoon in July 2007 and High School Musical actors Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens went for a vacation there. In 2013 Hollywood writer/director Rob Margolies and actress Kristen Ruhlin vacationed here. Musician Nile Rodgers has a vacation home on the island.
To boost tourism during the Caribbean low season of late summer, since 2003 the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board have organised and hosted an annual series of concerts during this season called the Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival. Held in a temporary bandshell at The Turtle Cove Marina in The Bight on Providenciales, this festival lasts about a week and has featured several notable international recording artists, such as Lionel Richie, LL Cool J, Anita Baker, Billy Ocean, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Ludacris, Chaka Khan, and Boyz II Men. More than 10,000 people attend annually.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a biodiversity hotspot. The islands have many endemic species and others of international importance, due to the conditions created by the oldest established salt-pan development in the Caribbean. The variety of species includes a number of endemic species of lizards, snakes, insects and plants, and marine organisms; in addition to being an important breeding area for seabirds.
The UK and Turks and Caicos Islands Governments have joint responsibility for the conservation and preservation to meet obligations under international environmental conventions.
Providenciales International Airport is the main entry point for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Altogether, there are seven airports, located on each of the inhabited islands. Five have paved runways (three of which are approximately 2,000 m (6,600 ft) long and one is approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) long), and the remaining two have unpaved runways (one of which is approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft)s long and the other is significantly shorter).
The islands have 121 kilometres (75 miles) of highway, 24 km (15 mi) paved and 97 km (60 mi) unpaved. Like the United States Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands drive on the left.
The islands have no significant railways. In the early twentieth century East Caicos operated a horse-drawn railway to transport Sisal from the plantation to the port. The 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) route was removed after sisal trading ceased.
There is no postal delivery in the Turks and Caicos; mail is picked up at one of four post offices on each of the major islands. Mail is transported three or seven times a week, depending on the destination. The Post Office is part of the territory's government and reports to the Minister of Government Support Services.
Mobile phone service is provided by Cable & Wireless Communications, through its Flow brand, using GSM 850 and TDMA, and Digicel, using GSM 900 and 1900 and Islandcom Wireless, using 3G 850. Cable & Wireless provides CDMA mobile phone service in Providenciales and Grand Turk. The system is connected to the mainland by two submarine cables and an Intelsat earth station. There were three AM radio stations (one inactive) and six FM stations (no shortwave) in 1998. The most popular station is Power 92.5 FM which plays Top 100 hits. Over 8000 radio receivers are owned across the territory.
West Indies Video (WIV) has been the sole cable television provider for the Turks and Caicos Islands for over two decades and WIV4 (a subsidiary of WIV) has been the only broadcast station in the islands for over 15 years; broadcasts from the Bahamas can also be received. The territory has two internet service providers and its country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is ".tc". Amateur radio callsigns begin with "VP5" and visiting operators frequently work from the islands.
WIV introduced Channel 4 News in 2002 broadcasting local news and infotainment programs across the country. Channel 4 was re-launched as WIV4 in November 2007.
Since 2013 4NEWS has become the Islands first HD Cable News service with Television Studios in Grace Bay, Providenciales. DigicelPlay is the local cable provider.
Turks and Caicos's newspapers include the Turks and Caicos Weekly News, the Turks and Caicos SUN and the Turks and Caicos Free Press. All three publications are weekly. The Weekly News and the Sun both have supplement magazines. Other local magazines Times of the Islands, s3 Magazine, Real Life Magazine, Baller Magazine, and Unleashed Magazine.
From 1950 to 1981, the United States had a missile tracking station on Grand Turk. In the early days of the American space program, NASA used it. After his three earth orbits in 1962, American astronaut John Glenn successfully landed in the nearby ocean and was brought back ashore to Grand Turk island.
Cricket is the islands' national sport. The national team takes part in regional tournaments in the ICC Americas Championship, as well as having played one Twenty20 match as part of the 2008 Standford 20/20. Two domestic leagues exist, one on Grand Turk with three teams and another on Providenciales.