Senior Opposition legislator Julian Fraser has made strong suggestions that government neglecting to allow citizens back into the territory is unconstitutional.
Fraser gave that indication at an Opposition media briefing on Tuesday, following months of government denying citizens access into the BVI.
“You can’t tell a citizen he can’t come home, so we need to be responsible. The government is responsible for this, and the government needs to act, the government needs to make sure that this is corrected,” Fraser said.
According to Section 18(1) of the Virgin Islands Constitution, a person who belongs to the Virgin Islands — or on whom residence status has been legally conferred — shall not be deprived of his or her freedom of movement, including the right to enter and leave the Virgin Islands.
On the other hand, its also states in subsection 3(a) that: “The imposition of restrictions on the movement or residence within the Virgin Islands or on the right to leave the Virgin Islands of persons generally or any class of persons that are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health”.
Fraser, however, argued that government ought not “indefinitely impose these restrictions on individuals who have constitutional rights”.
Gov’t has had months to plan
He said a meeting to discuss coronavirus-related plans was had between members of the Opposition and government as far back as January 30.
And from that meeting, he said discussions were had about entry into the BVI, which included quarantining and heightened measures at ports of entry.
Fraser, therefore, argued that it is inexcusable to prevent the entry of citizens as government has had ample time to put measures in place to accommodate residents stranded in other countries.
“Here I am on May 19, telling you that our citizens who live here should be allowed to come home, and don’t tell me that it is irresponsible because we should have the quarantine facilities for these people … Leaving them out there hanging is not conscionable. It’s wrong, they should be back home.” Fraser argued.
Persons locked out days after leaving for medical treatment
The Opposition legislator who represents the Third Electoral District said there are citizens in neighbouring countries that had left the BVI to seek medical treatment days before the borders closed.
He said he believes these persons should have been allowed back into the territory long ago.
“This is something that you can endure for two days, three days, four days, but two or three months? It is unbelievable … A citizen of a country has nowhere else to go but home, and it is high time that they come home,” Fraser argued.
“Can you imagine leaving home and going overseas and can’t come back home, not to mention the many things that you left here that require your attention. No government should be allowed to get away with this, definitely not for this long,” he further said.
Repatriation flights should have been in play
The senior legislator pointed to a number of countries who have been sending repatriation flights for its citizens stranded in other parts of the world.
He said he believes this also should have been the case for the BVI.
“They talk about borders being closed, the borders are not closed. Airbus a380s are flying from China to the United States daily and what are they doing, repatriating their citizens,” Fraser argued.
He continued: “The Germans are sending Lufthansa (largest German airline) to Africa regularly to bring back its citizens. The UK is sending aircraft all around the world to bring back its citizens and we got our citizens right there in the United States Virgin Islands and they can’t come home.”
The government’s position
Premier and Minister responsible for ports, Andrew Fahie has said his government has not yet decided on whether repatriation flights will be provided for British Virgin Islanders stranded abroad.
He said the projected date for the partial reopening of the BVI’s borders is June 2.