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Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie said that there is zero tolerance to human trafficking into the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
In his statement titled, ‘COVID-19 Update- Operation Containment and Operation Eradication’, Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie said, "BVI will not be a hub anymore for these illegal activities."
Premier said that there is a situation where a few persons have not been taking the closure of the Territorial borders seriously.
He explained that in order to immediately address this gap, the Government has taken more measures to further strengthen the protection of the BVI’s sea borders, as part of the COVID-19 24-hour mitigation strategy driven by HM Customs and Immigration Department under the theme: “BVILOVE: Partnering and Protecting our Sea Borders in The New Regular," coupled with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
“Persons engaging in all or any illegal activities will be sought after vigorously and brought to justice. Those that need to be deported will be deported,” Premier stated.
In speaking about the ongoing collaboration with the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), with whom the BVI shares sea borders, to further protect the Territory’s borders Premier Fahie said that he has been in discussions with the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, Mr. Albert Bryan Jr who have expressed similar concerns.
“We have pledged our united efforts to a joint operation under our Friendship Day relationship to address this matter once and for all,” he said.
Premier said that this joint BVI-USVI effort, along with local efforts, will send a clear message to all who intend to try and continue these illegal activities in Territorial waters, that there is a zero tolerance to crime.
“The BVI will not be used as a hub for human smuggling to the United States Virgin Islands and also from the USVI to the BVI en route to their home country,” Premier Fahie stated.
According to Premier Fahie, a task force will be set up immediately to aggressively bring this illegal activity to an abrupt and needed end.
“Your Government will not allow the actions of a few individuals to endanger the welfare of the BVI and our economy,” he said adding, “There is zero tolerance when it comes to any illegal activities in our Territorial waters. That is why officers of HM Customs, including all the other law enforcement agencies that comprise the Joint Task Force will continue to remain committed to playing their respective roles in keeping the BVI safe during this COVID-19 era and beyond.”
Premier further stated that the Government is reviewing the existing laws so that stiffer penalties and fines are in place for persons caught in any illegal activities in our Territorial waters.
As part of the new Curfew (No. 30) Order, 2020 the movement of vessels will be restricted in Territorial waters.
“We are small in size and we cannot continue to allow this behavior to continue,” he said, adding, “At this time, we find ourselves at the crossroads where we have had to readjust our existing plan and adjust our course, once again. We had the economy back on track and because of one or two lawless persons we are back here almost at square one.
Premier Fahie gave the assurance that persons engaging in activities that compromised the health of residents and the economy of the Territory will be penalised.
The Premier also thanked members of the community who have been vigilant and have been coming forward to give valuable leads and information.
“Our residents and businesses must not be made to continue to suffer due to misconduct by a few persons out of greed and lack of respect for our Virgin Islands. I want to state clearly that these types of action will not be condoned by your Government,” he stressed.
The Imposition of a Curfew (No. 30) Order, 2020 states that from September 2 to 16, 2020, “Any person who operates a private and commercial vessel is prohibited from operating the said vessel within the Territorial waters, except where such person is approved by the Governor, in consultation with the Minister responsible for fisheries and agriculture to operate: (a) a fishing vessel; and (b) an intra-island ferry, provisioning barge or any other vessel in exceptional circumstances.”
Additionally, as part of the Order, there is a daily curfew in place for 14 days from from September 2 to 16, 2020 from 1:01 p.m. to 4:59 a.m.
Premier Fahie said the curfew is important to restrict the movement of persons to allow the health team the opportunity to further find people easier as they continue to aggressively trace and test from the existing confirmed cases.
The purpose of the curfew is to control, suppress or prevent the spread of COVID-19 and for the protection of persons within the Territory.
Photo: Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie