Legislation that makes it mandatory for aircraft and vessels coming or leaving the territory to provide information on its crew members and passengers prior to their arrival or departure is being introduced in the BVI. But can BVI tax payers really watch where their money goes? Who can watch the BVI government?
The Bill, which is titled the Advanced Passenger Information Act, is reportedly being introduced to “facilitate advanced passenger screening and enhanced border security”.
According to the draft of the Bill which was published in government’s official gazette on Thursday, the legislation comes at the recommendation of Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The drafted document said the advanced passenger information obtained would be shared with other jurisdictions through CARICOM’s Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
IMPACS - an agency designed to be region’s nerve centre for providing a collective response to the crime and security priorities of member countries - would then run this information through a system that conducts screenings against ‘watch lists’.
Watch lists are used to track the current activity or movements of criminals such as terrorist or persons found guilty of an offence involving stolen or lost travel documents, criminal deportees, and other persons of interest.
Under this new law, commercial and private aircraft must submit the information “no later than 40 minutes prior to departure from the last port of call”.
For vessels arriving outside of the region, the information must be submitted no later than 24 hours before arrival. The same one-hour window is allowed for vessels travelling within the region.
Fines, prison time
According to the gazetted document, there are relatively hefty penalties for persons who do not comply with the legislation when it becomes law.
It said a person who refuses to answer any question from local Immigration authorities or “knowingly gives a false answer to the question put to him/her, or fails to comply with any request … commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.”
“A captain or master who fails to comply with or acts in contravention of this [legislation] commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both,” the document further stated.
Notably, if no authorization is given by the relevant authorities, no crew member or passenger would be allowed to disembark the aircraft or vessel except for reasons of health, safety or to preserve their life.