Turks and Caicos Islands

"Caicos" and "Turks & Caicos" redirect here. For the ship, see HMS Caicos (K505). For the television film, see Turks & Caicos (film).
Turks and Caicos Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Beautiful By Nature"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen"
National song: "This Land of Ours"[1]
Location of  Turks and Caicos Islands  (circled in red)in the Caribbean  (light yellow)
Location of  Turks and Caicos Islands  (circled in red)

in the Caribbean  (light yellow)

Status British Overseas Territory
CapitalCockburn Town
Largest city Providenciales (Provo)
Official languages English
Ethnic groups
Demonym Turks and Caicos Islander
Government Dependency under constitutional monarchy
   Monarch Elizabeth II
   Governor John Freeman
   Deputy Governor Anya Williams
   Premier Rufus Ewing
   UK government minister[lower-alpha 1] Baroness Anelay
Legislature House of Assembly
   Total 616.3 km2 (185th)
238 sq mi
   Water (%) negligible
   2012 census 31,458 [2]
   Density 80/km2
207.2/sq mi
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
Date format dd mm yyyy (AD)
Drives on the left
Calling code +1649
ISO 3166 code TC
Internet TLD .tc

The Turks and Caicos Islands (/ˈtɜːrks/ and /ˈkkəs/ / /ˈkks/ / /ˈkkɒs/), or TCI for short, are a British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Caribbean Sea and northern Caribbean region.

They are known primarily for tourism and as an offshore financial centre. The resident population is 31,458 as of 2012 [2] of whom 23,769 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands.

The Turks and Caicos Islands lie southeast of Mayaguana in the Bahamas island chain and north of the island of Hispaniola and the other Antilles archipelago islands. 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).[lower-alpha 2]

The first recorded European sighting of the islands now known as the Turks and Caicos occurred in 1512.[7] 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. In August 2009, the United Kingdom suspended the Turks and Caicos Islands' self-government after allegations of ministerial corruption.[8] Home rule was restored in the islands after the November 2012 elections.


The Turks and Caicos Islands are named after the Turk's cap cactus (Melocactus intortus), and the Lucayan term caya hico, meaning 'string of islands'.


The first inhabitants of the islands were Arawakan-speaking Taíno people, who crossed over from Hispaniola sometime 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,[7] they began capturing the Taíno of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Lucayan as slaves (technically, as workers in the encomienda system)[9] 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.[10][11][12][13][14]

The first European documented to sight the islands was Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, who did so in 1512.[7] 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.


Raking salt on a 1938 postage stamp of the islands.

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.[15]

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.[15] 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.[16] An 1878 letter documents the "Trouvadore Africans" and their descendants as constituting an essential part of the "labouring population" on the islands.[15]

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.[16][17][18]

Political reorganisation

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 into 1959.

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. From 1965, the governor of the Bahamas also was 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 Canadian House of Commons.[19]

Since August 1976, the islands have had their own government headed by a chief minister, 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. The UK took over direction of the government in 2009.[20][21]

In 2013 and 2014, interest in annexing Turks and Caicos to Canada was renewed as Edmonton East MP Peter Goldring met with the Turks and Caicos' premier Rufus Ewing in a reception at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle hotel.[22][23]


Map of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The two island groups are in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas, northwest of Puerto Rico, north of Hispaniola, and about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Miami in the United States, at 21°45′N 71°35′W / 21.750°N 71.583°W / 21.750; -71.583Coordinates: 21°45′N 71°35′W / 21.750°N 71.583°W / 21.750; -71.583. 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 eight main islands and more than 299 smaller islands have a total land area of 616.3 square kilometres (238.0 square miles),[lower-alpha 2] 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[24]) 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.

Turks Islands

The Turks Islands are separated from the Caicos Islands by Turks Island Passage, which is more than 2,200 m or 7,200 ft deep,[25] 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 of the six administrative districts of the territory 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).[27]

Mouchoir Bank

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.[28] Two banks further east, Silver Bank and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation, but belong politically to the Dominican Republic.

Caicos Islands

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 a relatively dry and sunny marine tropical climate[29] 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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 27
Average low °C (°F) 23
Average precipitation mm (inches) 36.1
Source: Weather.com [30] Weatherbase.com [31]


A street in Cockburn Town, the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Map of the European Union in the world with overseas countries and territories and outermost regions

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. The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization includes the territory on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

With the election of the territory's first Chief Minister, J.A.G.S. McCartney, the islands adopted a constitution on 30 August 1976, which is Constitution Day, the national holiday.

Constitutional suspension (1986–1988)

The constitution was suspended in 1986, but restored and revised 5 March 1988. In the interim two Advisory Councils took over with members from the Progressive National Party (PNP), People's Democratic Movement (PDM) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which was a splinter group from the PNP:[32]

Constitution 2006

A new constitution came into force on 9 August 2006, but was in parts suspended and amended in 2009. 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.

Under the suspended 2006 constitution, the head of government was the premier, filled by the leader of the elected party. The cabinet consisted of three ex officio members and five appointed by the governor from among the members of the House of Assembly. The unicameral House of Assembly consisted of 21 seats, of which 15 were popularly elected; members serve four-year terms. Elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands were held on 24 April 2003 and again on 9 February 2007. The Progressive National Party, led by Michael Misick, held thirteen seats, and the People's Democratic Movement, led by Floyd Seymour, held two seats.

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. After the 2012 elections, Rufus Ewing of the Progressive National Party won a narrow majority of the elected seats and was appointed premier.[33]

The Turks and Caicos Islands participates 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.

Independence proposal

The winning party of Turks and Caicos' first general election in 1976, the People's Democratic Movement (PDM) under "Jags" McCartney, sought to establish a framework and accompanying infrastructure in the pursuit of an eventual policy of full independence for the islands. However, with the early death of McCartney, confidence in the country's leadership waned. In 1980, the PDM agreed with the British government that independence would be granted in 1982 if the PDM was re-elected in the elections of that year. That election was effectively a referendum on the independence issue and was won by the pro-dependency Progressive National Party (PNP), which claimed victory again four years later. With these developments, the independence issue largely faded from the political scene.

However, in the mid-2000s, the issue of independence for the islands was again raised. In April 2006, PNP Premier Michael Misick reaffirmed that his party saw independence from Britain as the "ultimate goal" for the islands, but not at the present time.[34]

In 2008, opponents of Misick accused him of moving toward independence for the islands to dodge a commission of inquiry, which examined reports of corruption by the Misick Administration.[35]

Administrative divisions

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).

Proposed union with Canada

A great number of tourists who visit the Turks and Caicos Islands are Canadian. In 2011 arrivals from Canada were about 42,000 out of a total from all countries of about 354,000.[36] Owing to this, the islands' status as a British colony, and historical trade links, some politicians in Canada and the Turks and Caicos have suggested some form of union between Canada and the British territory. In 1917, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden attempted to persuade the British government to annex the islands, and the idea has been discussed several times over the last century. In 1974, the government of the islands sent Canada a "serious offer" to join the country, however at the time the Canadian government was focusing on their free trade agreement with the United States.

In 2013, Rufus Ewing, the Premier of the islands, rejected the idea of the islands joining Canada, however the following year he stated that he wasn't "closing the door completely" on the possibility.[37]

In April 2016, it was reported that the New Democratic Party, one of the three major political parties in Canada, was considering a resolution at an upcoming national convention to discuss the possibility of working with lawmakers and citizens of Turks and Caicos Islands to have it join Canada as the eleventh Canadian province.[38]

Corruption scandal and suspension of self-government


In 2008, after members of the British parliament conducting a routine review of the administration received several reports of high-level official corruption in the Turks and Caicos,[39] then-Governor Richard Tauwhare announced the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into corruption.[40] The same year, Premier Michael Misick himself became the focus of a criminal investigation after a woman identified by news outlets as an American citizen residing in Puerto Rico accused him of sexually assaulting her,[41] although he strongly denies the charge.[42]

On Monday, 16 March 2009, the UK threatened to suspend self-government in the islands and transfer power to the new governor, Gordon Wetherell, over systemic corruption.[43]

On 18 March 2009, on the advice of her UK ministers, Queen Elizabeth II issued an Order in Council giving the Governor the power to suspend those parts of the 2006 Constitution that deal with ministerial government and the House of Assembly, and to exercise the powers of government himself. The order, which would also establish an Advisory Council and Consultative Forum in place of the House of Assembly, would come into force on a date to be announced by the governor, and remain in force for two years unless extended or revoked.[44]

On 23 March 2009, after the enquiry found evidence of "high probability of systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty", Misick resigned as Premier to make way for a new, unified government.[45] Politicians were accused of selling crown land for personal gain and misusing public funds.[46] The following day, Galmo Williams was sworn in as his replacement.[45][47] Misick denied all charges, and referred to the British government's debate on whether to remove the territory's sovereignty as "tantamount to being re-colonised. It is a backwards step completely contrary to the whole movement of history."[46]

Suspension and reactions

On 14 August 2009 after Misick's last appeals failed, the Governor, on the instructions of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands by authority of the 18 March 2009 Order in Council issued by the Queen. The islands' administration was suspended for up to two years, with possible extensions, and power was transferred to the Governor, with the United Kingdom also stationing a supply vessel in between Turks and Caicos. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Chris Bryant said of the decision to impose rule, "This is a serious constitutional step which the UK Government has not taken lightly but these measures are essential in order to restore good governance and sound financial management."[48]

The move was met with vehement opposition by the former Turks and Caicos government, with Misick's successor Williams calling it a "coup", and stating that, "Our country is being invaded and re-colonised by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one-man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance."[48] Despite this, the civilian populace was reported to be largely welcoming of the enforced rule.[48] The British government stated that they intended to keep true to their word that the country would regain home rule in two years or less, and Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said that elections would be held in 2011, "or sooner".[49] Governor Wetherell stated that he would aim to "make a clean break from the mistakes of the past" and create "a durable path towards good governance, sound financial management and sustainable development". Wetherell added: "In the meantime we must all learn to foster a quality of public spirit, listen to all those who have the long-term interests of these islands at heart, and safeguard the fundamental assets of the Territory for future generations... Our guiding principles will be those of transparency, accountability and responsibility. I believe that most people in the Turks and Caicos will welcome these changes."[48]

New government formed

On 12 June 2012 British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that fresh elections would be held in November 2012, stating that there had been "significant progress with an ambitious reform programme" and that there had been "sufficient progress, on the milestones and on putting in place robust financial controls"[50] A new constitution was approved on 15 October 2012. The terms of the election are specified in the constitution.[51]


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.[52]

Chief Justices


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.[2] 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 ("non-belongers"). 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% [55]

Vital statistics

Vital statistics related to the population are:[56][57][58]

Average population (x 1000) Live births Deaths Natural change Crude birth rate (per 1000) Crude death rate (per 1000) Natural change (per 1000)
1950 5.0 24080160 47.615.931.7
1951 5.0 23971168
1952 5.0 24379164 48.815.933.0
1953 5.0 20692114 41.118.322.7
1954 5.1 23874164 46.714.532.2
1955 5.2 26896172 51.618.533.1
1956 5.3 22383140 41.915.626.3
1957 5.4 23175156 42.413.828.7
1958 5.6 24484160 43.915.128.8
1959 5.7 24490154 43.115.927.2
1960 5.7 25260192 44.010.533.5
1961 5.8 24765182 42.911.331.6
1962 5.8 25269183 43.712.031.8
1963 5.7 23874164 41.512.928.6
1964 5.7 21761156 38.010.727.3
1965 5.7 1496683 26.311.614.6
1966 5.6 19963136 35.411.224.2
1967 5.6 13727110 24.54.819.7
1968 5.6 16338125 29.36.822.5
1969 5.6 16250112
1970 5.6 17647129 31.38.322.9
1971 5.8 19059131 33.010.322.8
1972 5.9 17146125 28.97.821.1
1973 6.1 19146145 31.17.523.6
1974 6.3 15236116 24.05.718.3
1975 6.5 15954105
1976 6.7 20043157 29.76.423.4
1977 6.9 19447147 28.26.821.3
1978 7.1 17051119
1979 7.3 19728169 27.13.923.3
1980 7.5 21415199
1981 7.9 18924165
1982 8.2 20433171
1983 8.7
1984 9.1
1985 9.5
1986 9.9
1987 10.2
1988 10.6
1989 11.0
1990 11.6 24050190 20.84.316.5
1991 12.2 21159152 17.34.812.5
1992 13.0 26352211
1993 13.8 19766131
1994 14.6 22962167
1995 15.3 30074226 19.64.814.7
1996 16.0 32455269 20.33.416.8
1997 16.5 28755232 17.43.314.0
1998 17.1 27224248 15.91.414.5
1999 17.9 29239253
2000 18.9 29067223 15.43.511.8
2001 20.2 27169202 13.43.410.0
2002 21.7 15348105
2003 23.4 21361152
2004 25.0 30046254 12.01.810.1
2005 30.6 31853265
2006 33.2 41173338 12.32.310.0
2007 34.9 462116346
2008 36.6 46065395 12.41.810.6
2009 36 73
2010 34.3 116 14.8 2.3
2011 31.5

Population breakdown

Island Capital Area (km²)Population[lower-alpha 3]
Caicos Islands
South CaicosCockburn Harbour 21.2 2,013
West CaicosNew Marina 28 10 (Employees of new resort)
ProvidencialesDowntown Providenciales 122 33,253
Pine CaySouth Bay Village 3.2 30 (Resort Staff)
Parrot CayParrot 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 Caicos146.50
Turks Islands
Grand Turk Cockburn Town 17.6 8,051
Salt Cay Balfour Town 7.1 315
Other Turks IslandsCotton Cay 2.40
Turks and Caicos Islands Cockburn Town 616.3 49000 [3]


The official language of the islands is English and the population also speaks Turks and Caicos Islands Creole[59] which is similar to Bahamian Creole.[60] 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.[61]


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%).[55]

Catholics are served by the Mission "Sui Iuris" for Turks and Caicos, which was erected in 1984 with territory taken from the then Diocese of Nassau.


Turks and Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk

The Turks and Caicos Islands are most well 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 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.[18]

The island's most popular sports are fishing, sailing, football (soccer) and cricket (which is the national sport).

Turks and Caicos cuisine is based primarily around seafood, especially conch.[62] Two common dishes, whilst not traditionally 'local', are conch fritters and conch salad.[63]


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. See British Overseas Territories citizen#Access to British citizenship.

Education system

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 The 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.

Health system

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.


In 2009, GDP contributions were as follows:[64] Hotels & Restaurants 34.67%, Financial Services 13.12%, Construction 7.83%, Transport, Storage & Communication 9.90%, and Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities 9.56%. 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).[64]

The labour force totalled 27,595 workers in 2008. The labour force distribution in 2006 is as follows:

Skill level Percentage
Unskilled/Manual 53%
Semi-skilled 12%
Skilled 20%
Professional 15%

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.[65]

A Turks and Caicos sunset
View of the southwestern beach at Grand Turk Island

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[66] and the world's only conch farm.[67]

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.[68] 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.[69] More than 10,000 people attend annually.[69]



A French Angelfish in Princess Alexandra Land and Sea National Park, Providenciales
A Blue Tang and a Squirrelfish in Princess Alexandra Land and Sea National Park, Providenciales

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.[76]

The UK and Turks and Caicos Islands Governments have joint responsibility for the conservation and preservation to meet obligations under international environmental conventions.[77]

Due to this significance, the islands are on the United Kingdom's tentative list for future UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[78]


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).[79]

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, but use left-hand-drive vehicles that are imported from the United States.[80]

The territory's main international ports and harbours are on Grand Turk and Providenciales.[81]

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.[82]

Postal system

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.[83] Mail is transported three or seven times a week, depending on the destination.[84] The Post Office is part of the territory's government and reports to the Minister of Government Support Services.[85]


Mobile phone service is provided by Cable & Wireless Worldwide, 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 and began providing reliable daily online Turks and Caicos news with the WIV4 News blog,[86] an online forum connecting TCI residents with others interested in the islands, while keeping users updated on the TCI's daily news.

Since 2013 4NEWS has become the Islands 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[87] and the Turks and Caicos Free Press.[88] All three publications are weekly. The Weekly News and the Sun both have supplement magazines. Other local magazines Times of the Islands,[89] s3 Magazine,[90] 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.[91][92]


Cricket is the islands' national sport.[93] The national team takes part in regional tournaments in the ICC Americas Championship,[94] as well as having played one Twenty20 match as part of the 2008 Standford 20/20.[95] Two domestic leagues exist, one on Grand Turk with three teams and another on Providenciales.[93]

As of 4 July 2012, Turks and Caicos Islands' football team shared the position of the lowest ranking national men's football team in the world at the rank of 207th.[96]

Because the territory is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, Turks and Caicos Islanders compete for Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

Turks and Caicos Islanders

See also


  1. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for the British Overseas Territories
  2. 1 2 Different sources give different figures for the Islands' area. The CIA World Factbook gives 430 km2,[3] the European Union says 417 km2,[4] and the Encyclopædia Britannica says "Area at high tide, 238 square miles (616 square km); at low tide, 366 square miles (948 square km)".[5] A report by the Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Economic Planning and Statistics gives the same numbers as the Encyclopædia Britannica though its definitions are less clear.[6]
  3. The Islands area and population data retrieved from the 2012 census


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  13. William F. Keegan. (1992) The People Who Discovered Columbus: The Prehistory of the Bahamas. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1137-X pp. 25, 48–62, 86, 170–173, 212–213, 220–223
  14. Carl Ortwin Sauer. (1966, Fourth printing, 1992) The Early Spanish Main. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01415-4 pp. 159–160, 191
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27b. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/turksandcaicos/


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