FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GEORGE TOWN, EXUMA, BAHAMAS 5th April 2017: International Rescue Group's vessel Sir Martin II and two IRG Reserve boats were detained by Bahamas Customs and Immigration 1st April for transferring cargo bound for Haiti in IRG's 6th mission after Hurricane Matthew. Captain Ray Thackeray, Executive Director and Founder of IRG aboard 97-foot ketch Sir Martin II was immediately jailed for 4 days awaiting a court hearing, and all cargo was confiscated. Cargo consisted of recycled sails from www.sailsforsustenance.org
to be distributed to Haitian subsistence fishermen, tools, food and other supplies bound for various charity and orphanage partners that IRG has been working with for years.
Subsequently Bahamas Customs ruled the cargo as legal and released the two IRG Reserve vessels and cargo, but Captain Thackeray was found to have unintentionally overstayed his 14-day visa due to main engine breakdown and being forced to sail, his 97-foot gaff-rigged vessel, engine-less, into George Town for repairs.
"This was an outrageous molesting of a disaster relief and humanitarian aid charity." said Captain Thackeray. While Bahamas Customs accepted IRG's credentials after investigation and were professional, Immigration demanded the maximum penalty for a minor infraction and the Magistrates court on Monday 3rd exacted a highly unusual and inexplicable maximum fine of $3,000 or 2 years in jail. The Captain was released yesterday after arriving at court 15 minutes before the deadline Monday 3rd with $3,000 cash to find the officials had gone home early and was thus incarcerated for yet another night on a concrete slab in the George Town jailhouse.
Captain Thackeray, who is dual citizen British/American, reports "The Judge was disinclined to view credentials that IRG is an accredited NGO running missions that in the past have benefited the Bahamas. I requested in writing the court case number, summary judgement and other details of the case including the judge's name and so far have been refused, being told at the court that they don't know if they can give me this information. All I have to show for this entire incident is a receipt for $3,000."
The Bahamas own emergency management organization NEMA has a Hurricane Matthew Exigency Order still in effect, and it is customary for aid NGOs to be extended aid and latitude to operate in such times across the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Even more shocking is that Bahamas Immigration demanded that Captain Thackeray sail out of the islands immediately. "My crew have all flown home so I am the only person on board a traditional gaffer sailing vessel with disabled engine being told to sail out into adverse conditions that would quickly put the boat onto the rocks. Naturally I refused, to be told that I am being deported Friday 7th and will not be allowed back into the country to retrieve my vessel, which few people know how to sail or maintain."
The IRG Reserve is a network of privately owned boats who sign up and are accredited as support vessels by IRG.
International Rescue Group operates three wholly-owned boats in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and this year have sailed 5 missions to southern Haiti after the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, with 4 more boats on the way. International Rescue Group, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt US Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation http://www.internationalrescuegroup.org