This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Lord Ahmad

Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN

Part of FCDO Outreach

6th October 2017 UK, London

One month since Hurricane Irma

Today marks a month since Hurricane Irma struck, bringing devastation to our Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.

On my visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands, I saw first-hand the destruction Hurricane Irma caused, particularly to the capital, Grand Turk; houses reduced to rubble, livelihoods destroyed.  The Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for International Development visited the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.  In the tragedy of the destruction, we were all struck by the resilience shown by those living and working there and their desire to put the crisis behind them and begin rebuilding their lives, homes and businesses as quickly as possible.  The strength of the human spirit exemplified.

I would also like to pay tribute to our incredible military personnel who through RFA Mounts Bay and HMS Ocean provided the hope and support as the early responders.  Food, water, housing, as well as the clearance and early rebuilding and security were all part of the diverse roles they played.  To them I say thank you for all you are and all you do.

Our Government has also been working closely with the governments on the islands to assist with efforts to rebuild, restore and rehabilitate communities. Real progress has already been made and we are committed in both the short term and the longer term, to continue with efforts to restore normality to all those affected.

This week I have written to the Chief Minister of Anguilla, and the Premiers of  the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands to update them on current UK activity in support of their governments as we all begin to move on from this tragedy.

In the shorter term, a Joint Task Force has been co-ordinating relief efforts and activities, including military support.  Based in Barbados this team is providing support to address immediate priorities.

In the longer term, Territory Governments are developing recovery plans. They are best placed to set the vision, scale and direction of this complex work for their communities. This will require innovative and creative approaches in order to make the best use of contributions from the private sector, international organisations, donors and civil society, and I believe that the Overseas Territories can become stronger than ever.

The UK Government remains committed to playing its part. The Foreign Secretary recently chaired the first meeting of a UK inter-ministerial group set up to support the efforts of the territories in recovery and regeneration. Here, Ministers reiterated their commitment to work with all of the areas affected by the hurricanes and pledged continued support across all areas.

This week we have also sent a team of FCO and DFID technical experts to Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos to begin discussions about recovery and reconstruction planning on the islands. They will establish an understanding of their priority needs and emerging strategies, and then look to amplify efforts and establish exactly where we can best provide assistance.

We are at the start of what will be a period of continued close partnership and engagement between the UK Government and our Overseas Territories to ensure plans are successfully delivered to allow them to rebuild for the future.

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