Published On: Tue, Apr 10th, 2018

Venezuelans find their way to Saint Martin

Border monument Belvedere - 20180108 HH

MARIGOT – The deteriorating situation in Venezuela started having its effect already in 2016 on the French side of the island. According to data released by the prefecture, there were 345 requests for asylum in 2016, 300 more than in 2015. More than 78 percent of these requests – 270 – were asylum seekers from Venezuela.

The prefecture estimates the number of foreigners living in Saint Martin at around 14,000; that’s roughly 40 percent of the population. The number of foreigners living in the territory without a residence permit is around 8,000. In 2016 the PAF (French border patrol) caught 498 illegals, mostly people from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

There were also dozens of procedures against Haitians who used forged birth certificates and against Dominicans who used forged driver’s licenses. Many Haitians ended up in court because they attempted to obtain residence permits based on forged documents.

Venezuela is also on the agenda of the Second Chamber in The Hague, where VVD-parliamentarian André Bosman wants State Secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) to explain why the Netherlands is going to contribute €100,000 ($123,000) to the expansion of detention capacity in Curacao. That money is designated to help the island cover the cost of detaining and deporting refugees  from Venezuela.

The Netherlands is also sending experts of the Immigration and Naturalization Department (ND) to Curacao; these experts will assist in defining who qualifies as a refugee and who will be deported.

Bosman wants to know whether the government is putting up the money voluntarily or based on requirements established in the kingdom charter.

St. Maarten’s Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo attended talks in Curacao with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok last week. Blok’s intervention has resulted in the reopening of the borders between Venezuela and the ABC-islands.

“Although the impact on St. Maarten is not as on the other islands, the government continues to monitor the progress on this issue as it has an impact om immigration,” Marlin-Romeo said in a statement.