Virgin Islands authorities are currently tracking a Dominican Republic man who broke his quarantine after being refused entry into the territory on Dec. 20 — and who has since escaped the VI, Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley told the Beacon on Monday.
Although the man has not been apprehended, VI officials “know exactly where he is,” said Mr. Wheatley, who added that he “is not in the BVI” but declined to give his exact location.
The man, who government did not identify, was denied entry into the VI after border patrol authorities decided that “the amount of money he claimed … was insufficient,” and after they searched his luggage and found “communications receipts and transaction receipts” that seemed suspicious, said Mr. Wheatley, who did not provide further details.
VI authorities will continue to monitor the escaped detainee in the coming weeks, and Mr. Wheatley expects that he eventually will be apprehended, he said.
Additionally, Mr. Wheatley told the Beacon that several other people have been refused entry to the territory and are now in quarantine under the supervision of the Immigration Department. However, he did not say how many people have been refused entry or give details as to why. “They were deemed not to be desirable,” he said.
Breach of quarantine
After arriving at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Dec. 20, the DR man was taken to the Wyndham Tortola Lambert Beach Resort, where he was supposed to quarantine until his departure from the territory the next day, Mr. Wheatley announced in a Dec. 22 statement.
“Unfortunately, routine checks of the passenger’s room revealed that he had left the room and possibly left the resort,” the minister explained in the statement.
Rumours about the disappearance had been spreading fast over social media, and in his statement Mr. Wheatley sought to quell some of the anxieties bubbling online by noting that the man had tested negative for Covid-19.
“While this negative test result may bring some level of relief, the fact that he has broken the law and remains at large is still of great concern for us as a government as it should be for you as a people,” Mr. Wheatley said, adding, “We will not stand for this!”
The minister also warned that Cabinet had approved upping the penalties for several sections of the Immigration and Passport Act.
The fines for anyone “who lands or embarks in the territory and is in contravention of section 20 … and any person being the master or captain of a vessel from which a person lands or embarks in the territory in contravention of section 20,” were increased to $100,000 from $1,000, while the maximum prison sentence was increased to 10 years from 12 months, Mr. Wheatley stated.
Cabinet also decided to raise the fines for “a person assisting with or making arrangements for a person to enter the territory illegally … and for a person who knowingly harbours an illegal person for a period of more than [two] days,” to $100,000 from $3,000, and the maximum prison sentence to 10 years from three, Mr. Wheatley added.
The minister also urged anyone with information about potential breaches of curfew or other immigration violations to call 468-4705 or 468-9601.
“We must continue to show ‘BVI love’ by banding together to safeguard our territory from persons who seek to break the laws set to protect us all,” he said. “Let us not shy away from being a part of what is right.”