Photo Credit: Two of Us Photography BVI/Burton Smith
The government has no excuse for having customs and immigration officers continue to work under poor conditions at the West End port of entry.
Opposition Leader, Hon. Andrew Fahie, who has both privately and publicly offered government a temporary solution where someone was willing to donate a trailer, said that the government continues to ignore that offer.
The issue attracted more attention from the public after a photograph was circulated on social media, depicting workers being exposed to heavy rains under the makeshift accommodation, a tent.
"Our customs officers as well as all public officers deserve to be in a safe and secure working environment. We all agree that post Hurricane Irma, many adjustments had to be made by all of us. However, there is absolutely no excuse for government to still be in this present deplorable situation," he said when contacted for a comment over the weekend.
He reminded the public that in December 2017, during a sitting of the House of Assembly, he raised the concern with the Premier and the Minister of Communication and Works, as well as other requisite senior government officials.
"I expressed to them the urgency to have this problem rectified, even if temporary measures are used. I further gave them a solution of an entity that wished to donate a fully retrofitted trailer to accommodate Customs and Immigration, as well as the flow of traffic of travelers from the ferries and other means."
He continued, "I gave them the person's name and number. I informed them that at that time the trailer was available. I also informed them that the trailer was being donated free of cost to the Government of the Virgin Islands."
The First District Representative said that the only cost to government would have been the shipping.
"At that time the gentleman clearly stated that if his proposal is met with favor by the Government of the Virgin Islands, then he would have it shipped and landed in Tortola, Virgin Islands within nine working days."
He said that all this information was clearly conveyed to the requisite authorities of the sitting government and to date, they have done absolutely nothing.
"Lately, I have brought another solution to the same authorities. I have also put to them the option of investigating if the previous offer is still a possibility. There is absolutely no excuse for Her Majesty's Customs Officers to still be in such deplorable working conditions, under a 10×10 tent, when rain comes or when the sun shines," he explained.
Hon. Fahie commended the customs officers for performing beyond the call of duty while working under such horrific working conditions.
"In addition, the ignoring of the urgent need to reopen the ports in West End has caused the taxi men, car rental companies and other businesses that make their living from a functioning West End ports facility to suffer significantly."
Hon. Fahie lamented that this situation did not need money to get the port facility up and running in a more conducive manner for all stakeholders.
"It just took care and concern for the well being of others to have been the driving force to ensure that better was done from months ago. I will remain relentless on all the requisite government authorities until this matter is resolved with the urgency and attention it rightfully deserves," the Opposition Leader assured.
At a sitting of the House of Assembly last month, Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister of Communications and Works promised that the terminal would be operational by this month.
He had said that government ordered a temporary building, which was shipped on February 19.
Hon. Vanterpool had also indicated that at the time, he could not state the status of the discussions between the individual Hon. Fahie mentioned and the BVI Ports Authority, but assured that they have made contact.