The British Virgin Islands is moving to strengthen links with the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) in a bid to combat the active smuggling trade between the two territories.
News of this follows Premier Andrew Fahie’s meeting with border control personnel who have now commenced a ‘more intense’ 24-hour surveillance of the borders since the recent spike in COVID-19 cases locally.
Premier Fahie said USVI Governor, Albert Bryan Jr has committed to increasing cross-border ‘protection and has immediately engaged his team to ensure collaboration and coordination of efforts to “curb any illegal activities along the shared borders”.
Strengthening borders crucial
While stating that the 24-hour protection of the BVI’s borders “is a lot to ask of the team”, Fahie said the officers were committed to the task.
“We recognise that in further strengthening our sea border security, we must close any foreseeable gap that would allow the illegal entry of persons to our shores. We have been able to move swiftly because the resources required are available locally and there is a need for them at this time,” he stated in a media release.
He continued: “There is a cost to deploy these assets, and the suppliers of the equipment and vessels have provided the most competitive offer to the government inclusive of safety equipment, security, and suitable working environment for our officers.”
The Premier said there were other plans in the making to further protect the territory.
While not divulging details, he said there would be point-for-patrol and interceptor vessels tasked to intercept vessels deemed to be suspicious.
He further said a permanent network of radars will be introduced to clamp down on drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Due to the recent COVID-19 cases, the Premier said it was crucial to ensure that no one would be able to evade the screening and precautionary measures that have been implemented for persons entering the territory.
“In making these tough decisions, we are being guided by the provisions of the Public Health Ordinance, the Quarantine Act and the Infectious Diseases (Notification) Act — all of which are designed to treat circumstances such as these, and which prescribes measures that should be taken whenever there is the risk of an outbreak of disease,” Fahie stated.
He added: “In the end, we had to make the choices that we did as a Government because to do otherwise would have cost lives, or it would have resulted in more extensive, long-term, and more serious damage to the local economy. We have to take these steps because we want to avoid going into another shutdown of the Territory. Whatever has to be done in the best interest of the health and safety of the people of the Virgin Islands will be done.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Customs Wade Smith described the undertakings as necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“It is customary that where it is necessary to procure equipment or services from the private sector, HM Customs does this from time to time. In this instance, the radar equipment and the vessels for this exercise are in the territory, and we needed to move promptly to further tighten the sea borders,” Smith stated.
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