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Turks and Caicos to resume deporting Haitians

The Turks and Caicos Islands will resume deportations of Haitians who were in the British Caribbean territory illegally before their country's devastating earthquake, the government said Thursday.

Immigration authorities in the island chain just north of Haiti consulted with officials in Britain and decided the temporary suspension of deportations was no longer warranted, the government said in a statement.

The deportation ban affected only Haitians already in the Turks and Caicos before the January 2010 earthquake, while illegal immigrants who arrived later have been regularly sent home.

Turks and Caicos was among several jurisdictions in the region that suspended deportations after the quake on humanitarian grounds in an effort to help impoverished Haiti recover from the worst natural disaster in its history. The U.S. has extended what's known as temporary protected status for Haitians until Jan. 22, 2013.

In the Turks and Caicos, immigration authorities will focus on illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, are involved in migrant trafficking as facilitators or smugglers or who arrive in the dangerously overloaded boats that are often used to move migrants through the Caribbean.

"The lifting of the moratorium on deportation is part of the Ministry of Border Control and Labor's commitment to enforce the law firmly, fairly and effectively," said Clara Gardiner, permanent secretary in the territory's Ministry of Border Control and Labor.

Turks and Caicos is home to about 32,000 people, most of whom live on the island of Providenciales. It has long been a destination for Haitians seeking work in the territory or trying to reach another country. The government says it deported 938 Haitians in 2010 and 611 in 2011.