Don’t breach the BVI border

Published on December 2nd, 2020

Here’s a follow-up to two recent stories where people were detained and fined for wandering across the British Virgin Islands’ border:

• A life-long sailor, I have resided in the US Virgin Islands for the past 10 years. This entire time, my wife and I have enjoyed the rights of innocent passage (granted by UNCLOS) while sailing our boat, Blue Skies, on either side of the US and British Virgin Islands’ borders.

On November 16, 2020, my crew and I arrived in St Thomas, VI from our summer port of Portsmouth RI. Once in St Thomas, I researched “Notice to Mariners” on both the USVI and BVI websites. Nothing related to operation of private pleasure craft was published on either site. While I was aware the BVI had closed its territory to visitors, I felt confident that innocent passage remained as it had.

On November 18, we departed St. Thomas sailing for Francis Bay, St. John. We took a long tack north into BVI waters. With no intention of “arriving” anywhere in the BVI (i.e., no mooring, anchoring, docking or landing) I felt certain our innocent passage was just that. We were flying the American flag and our AIS was broadcasting our position. It was obvious we were not aware of any change to the right of innocent passage. At a point about 1 mile south of White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, a BVI police boat approached and ordered us to “stop the boat”. – Full report

• The four persons who were detained by the joint task force late last month were each fined $1,000 each after pleading guilty to entering the Territory illegally.

Nicholas Cancro, John Hines Jr, Lynee Ann Hines and Jeanne McKinnon who were apprehended by the Joint Task Force on November 19, 2020 appeared before Magistrate Christilyn Benjamin today, December 1 at 2:00 p.m.

Various media outlets in the United States, including Fox News, have picked up on the news of the detention with statements from the defendants which have been dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions as erroneous.

The detainees were charged with Illegal Entry without the permission of an Immigration Officer Contrary to Section 20 (3) of the Immigration Ordinance, Chapter 130 of the Laws of the Virgin Islands, which is a strict liability offence.

Crown Counsel Kristain Johnson represented the case for the Prosecution.

The Accused were represented by Attorney David Penn, who stated to the Magistrate that he did not wish to have the Accused plead, and he only wanted the complaints read to them for them to plead at a later date. – Full report

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