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Published On: Tue, Dec 1st, 2020

TelEm subcontractors working with illegal immigrants

ST. PETER’S — TelEm’s Fiber to Home project is a source of contention for local workers. In St. Peters, the hiring of illegal immigrants by contractors led to protests in the neighborhood. Residents who years ago laid the cables for telephone and internet in their neighborhoods, now have to watch with sorrow how strangers dig trenches and draw cables in every street.

“This is our job,” says a man who grew up in St. Peters. Angry: “How is it possible that not we, but foreigners get the work? We know exactly where all the cables are located in the area, how deep they have to be excavated.”

Brightly colored cables are being rolled out in the street. When asked where he comes from, one of the workers replies: “Venezuela.” In the next street, workers give each other assignments in Spanish. Two of them answer in the affirmative when asked whether they are from Venezuela. In another street, an English-speaking worker in a yellow vest hands over a Notification of Works. It states: “KN Circet are in the process of constructing its Fiber to the Home Network in St. Maarten on behalf of Telem.” The notification further explains that the work is scheduled to start November 6th and will be completed in approximately 10 weeks.

When asked why the work is being done by illegal immigrants, the foreman replies that his employees have papers. When asked where they come from, he says, “St. Maarten, Haiti, Venezuela.” Confronted with the fact that Venezuelans are not legally on the island, he shrugs.

Residents of St. Peters are fed up. They were promised that local workers would be the first to qualify for work. The government also promised that projects in a neighborhood will be carried out by a company from that same neighborhood, they say. “We don’t know the people who are working now, most of them don’t speak our language.”

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