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Four Americans claim they are being held like “hostages” in a British Virgin Islands hotel room after they accidentally sailed into the territory’s waters — breaking rules that prohibit U.S. visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.
Lynn Hines, of Manning, S.C., said she, her husband and two friends only realized their mistake after their sailboat had already traveled a mile and a half into the forbidden seas on Nov. 19 on their way to St. John, news station WJLA reported.
The boat turned around to head back, but it was too late and they were met by Customs agents.
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“This is where they took our passports and all the boat’s documentation and then stated that you are being charged with trying to enter the country illegally, not coming to a port of entry and they carry two $10,000 fines,” Hines told the outlet.
Since then, they’ve been detained in a single hotel room, which they say is overrun with bugs and has a broken sink, news station WSOC reported.
“We are hostages being held for ransom and not being charged. The only one charged is the boat owner,” Lynn Hines’ husband, John, told WJLA.
“We have been informed because we were on the boat we were also in territorial waters and also being detained.”
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He claimed that the captain has tried to pay the $20,000 fine, but he only has credit cards and the customs officials want cash.
On Monday, the group said they’re still waiting to appear in court and hopefully secure their release.
“We were told that customs was not handling the case, that immigration was handling the case,” Lynn told WSOC.
“Then, it was immigration’s not handling the case, now the prosecutor’s handling the case.”
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The U.S. State Department said it is aware of the matter and is providing assistance to the foursome.
“We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad, and are providing all appropriate consular services,” the agency said in a statement to WSOC. “We remain in communication with the detained U.S citizens.”
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