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20 Found Dead on Small Boat in Caribbean

It was drifting near Turks and Caicos Islands, an oft-used region for human traffickers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2021 11:16 AM CDT

(Newser) – A boat was found drifting about a mile off Grand Turk island with 20 dead people on board, including two children, authorities in the Turks and Caicos Islands said Sunday. Officials said investigators had ruled out foul play but were still trying to determine what happened, per the AP. The identities and origin of the dead were also under investigation. Fishermen spotted the small boat Thursday morning and alerted the marine branch of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, who towed the vessel ashore. Police Commissioner Trevor Botting said the boat appeared to have come from outside the Caribbean, and authorities didn't think it had Turks and Caicos as its destination. "My investigators are working to establish their identities and how they met their death," Botting said.

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The Turks and Caicos Islands are often a magnet for desperate Haitians seeking to flee that poverty-stricken nation, and the territory also has been used as a transshipment point by human traffickers. In June 2020, Sri Lanka-born Canadian citizen Sri Kajamukam Chelliah pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges before a Turks and Caicos judge and was sentenced to 14 months in prison. He was extradited to Florida and sentenced Feb. 24 to 32 months in prison for conspiring to smuggle people into the United States. Chelliah had been caught in August 2019 skippering a boat carrying 158 people, including 28 Sri Lankans. They told investigators they were bound for the United States.

(Read more Caribbean stories.)

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