Early Monday morning, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force captured and detained 19 migrants and a Chalwell Estate captain after a boat chase that ended in Manuel Reef, according to the Police Information Office.

Marine police officers returning from a separate rescue
operation that night near Pockwood Pond intercepted a “suspicious vessel” with several people on board, police said.

The boat sped off and police gave chase, but the captain eventually ran aground at Manual Reef, according to a Monday press release from the PIO.

People on board the boat tried to flee the area, but officers of the police Armed Response Team, Marine Unit, and Beat and Patrol were prepared to respond on shore, the press release stated. Sixteen migrants were detained immediately, and three others who initially escaped were detained later, police said.

The migrants were nationals of Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Guyana, according to the press release.

Alleged captain

The alleged captain, 30-year-old Chalwell Estate resident Jeremy Kuntz, was arrested and charged with smuggling migrants, police said. They added that he is also likely to face additional charges when he appears before the
Magistrates’ Court at its next available sitting.

Police Commissioner Mark Collins commended his officers’ quick response.

VI officials have struggled in recent years to respond to an apparent surge in migrants landing in the territory, many of whom were fleeing political and economic turmoil in Haiti and other countries.

Law enforcers have detained at least 76 migrants this year, at least 10 of whom have escaped from custody.