Published On: Tue, Jun 16th, 2020

PFP questions immigration-initiative Minister Richardson

Immigration and Border Protection Services Office building

PHILIPSBURG – Justice Minister Anna Richardson has issued a press statement about the status of temporary residence permit-holders, warning them to arrange the extension of their permit or run the risk of deportation. MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson (Party for Progress) have expressed concerns about compliance with international human rights standards in questions they submitted to the minister.

The PFP notes in its questions that statements and press releases are not legally binding and that any action by the ministry has to be based on the law – be it through a national ordinance, a national decree, or a ministerial regulation.

Minister Anna RichardsonRichardson’s press statement mentions a couple of considerations in her press release that may raise some eyebrows. For instance: “Considering that the immigration laws are strictly enforced.” It furthermore notes that the immigration office has been closed during the state of emergency and that this may have made it impossible for temporary permit holders to go through the process of renewal. “In all reasonableness, this may not be held against them.”

Yet the justice minister seems bent on sending out a stern warning by repeating that “laws and regulations are strictly enforced” and that there is a policy in place that focuses on “the protection of the social and economic growth as well as safety and security of the country.”

Requests for renewal of temporary residence permits have to be filed within three months of their expiry date. If a request is filed later, the applicant will have to leave the country and wait for a decision abroad, according to the press statement.

The closure of the immigration office will be taken into account to determine whether an applicant is past the three months of the expiry date of his or her permit.

The PFP however, has now asked the minister whether her initiative must be seen as the execution of Article 15 of the National Ordinance Admission and Expulsion, commonly referred to as the LTU (Landsverordening Toelating en Uitzetting).

This article stipulates under which conditions someone can be deported. In the first category fall those who have lost their right to admission by law and those who did not leave the island within a set term after their permit was revoked. In the second category are those “for whom admission according to the national ordinance is required and whose presence is considered undesirable because of public morality, the public order or public peace and safety.”

The article also regulates the finer points of deportation: it is done based on a warrant from the attorney-general that explains the reasons for the decision and that contains the order to leave St. Maarten within a certain time and a ban on returning. The warrant must give recipients enough time to put their affairs in order.

Minister Richardson has urged those whose permits are no longer valid to leave the island voluntarily. MPs Gumbs and Peterson want to know the length of the period of voluntary departure; when detainment and deportation efforts will begin and – more importantly – where people will be detained until the execution of their deportation.

“This could have serious implications for Sint Maarten’s compliance with international human rights standards and regulations, especially considering the state of justice-related facilities on the island,” the MPs write.

MP Melissa Gumbs- 20200528Gumbs and Peterson asked the minister whether she has informed the relevant authorities on the French side of the island, before addressing what they consider to be “the exploitation of undocumented workers by companies and individuals.”

What disciplinary and control measures intends the minister to apply to local companies and/or individuals who have participated in the hiring of illegal immigrants or have engaged in the falsification of documents to hire said illegal immigrants? they asked.

“To lay this entire problem at the foot of the illegal immigrants who came and keep coming here is to ignore our own responsibility and role in this issue,” Gumbs and Peterson say. “It is no secret that there are prominent individuals in the community who have participated in the importing and hiring of illegal immigrants for their business, whether construction-based or not. There must be some consequence for these actions as well, or in another ten years, we will find ourselves having this same discussion again.”

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