Published On: Fri, Jan 15th, 2021

Minister Richardson’s immigration policy under fire

PHILIPSBURG — Immigration remains a hot topic and it has come to the forefront once more after Justice Minister Anna Richardson’s announcement of a “strict enforcement” of relevant legislation. There is however a big difference between strongly worded political statements and reality.

The national ordinance Admittance and Expulsion, commonly referred to as the LTU (Landsverordening Toelating en Uitzetting) shows that the minister’s options are limited. For one, the document that contains the text of the ordinance states that its legal basis is “unknown.”

Minister Richardson said during a press briefing that applicants for a residence permit must prove a minimum monthly income of 2,000 guilders. That criterion is however nowhere to be found in the LTU.

Some people qualify for admittance by default, like adult Dutch citizens. This only requires that they have a roof over their head and that they have “sufficient means.” But the LTU does not specify what has to be understood from the term sufficient means.

For temporary residence permits (VTTV) and permanent permits the conditions have to do with place of residence, profession or business, rules related to public order, peace and safety, public morality and the general interest. Other conditions, limitations or stipulations cannot be imposed for obtaining these permits, unless they have been regulated in a so-called LBham (national decree containing general measures).

The minister has to base decisions to refuse permits on reasons related to the public order, the general interest, economic reasons or insufficient means.

Revoking a permit is also subject to strict rules laid down in the LTU. Applicants who intentionally provide incorrect information to obtain their permit and who have been irrevocably convicted for this violation are top of the list. An irrevocable conviction of more than three months is also a reason for revoking a permit. Other reasons have to do with public morality, the general interest, destitution and no longer meeting the requirements for the permit.

The LTU also stipulates that the country is liable if the minister unlawfully used her authority to expel people.

All of the above is the long and short of the legislation Minister Richardson has at her disposal. There is nothing else.

But what happens in the real world? The minister’s intentions and potential actions clash with decisions taken by at the ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs. That’s where entrepreneurs go to obtain their Director’s licenses.

Clifford Illis, a former police officer well acquainted with the LTU, has plenty of experience with this economic minefield as a consultant to many a business owner. “They have been turning down residence permits left and right without any consideration for the effects this is going to have,” he wrote in a letter to StMaartenNews.com. “Some of these permits are for directors of newly formed companies. We have seen massive business closures on the island and we direly need new business start-ups.”

To obtain a residence permit a business director has to show his director’s license, a permit obtained from the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs. But then, Illis notes, the Justice department turns down the request for a residence permit. “To operate as a director, the applicant needs a residence permit.”

Illis says that there are around 17,000 immigrants on the island and that many of them come from countries like India, China, and the Arab Emirates. “They enjoy priority seating and elite status with the immigration department because these are the people with the big bucks.”

Illis furthermore points to the economic value the 17,000 immigrants represent in terms of consumption. His conservative estimate adds up $30.6 million a year for food and clothing alone. But that estimate does not include a host of expenditures like rent, utilities, taxes, entertainment and services (to accountants and other providers). “We could easily be talking about more than $100 million.”

Illis therefore has little to no confidence in Minister Richardson’s intentions. “We are shooting ourselves in the foot with this policy. It must stop immediately and be reevaluated.”