Published On: Tue, Jun 16th, 2020

PFP Requests Clarity from Justice Minister on Illegal Immigration Announcement

MP Melissa D. GumbsConcerned about Compliance with International Human Rights Standards

PHILIPSBURG – PFP Members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson have submitted questions to Minister Anna Richardson, following the Minister’s announcement that the country’s immigration laws would be “strictly enforced,” as well as encouraging those without resident permits to voluntarily leave the island or face detainment and deportation.

The faction has stated publicly that the country’s rampant illegal immigration problem has desperately needed attention for over ten years now and both MPs commend the Minister for at least taking the initiative to start the discussion to handle this issue. However, both held some concerns with the planning and execution of the proposed plan, particularly with regard to the country’s compliance with international human rights standards. The faction questioned if the Minister’s announcement is meant to be an execution of Article 15 of the Landsverordening Toelating and Uitzetting (the so-called LTU) and if so, what legal basis is being applied for its execution. The concern is that statements or press releases cannot legally bind citizens or residents; any action must find itself rooted in a legal basis, whether through a national ordinance, national decree with general measures or ministerial regulations. To be on the right side of international standards, all bases must be covered from a legal standpoint.

The MPs further questioned the Minister on the duration of the ‘voluntary departure’ period, as well as requesting a timeline for when detainment and deportation efforts will begin. A critical point the faction raises is where detainees will be held until their deportation is executed. 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.

“International standards, whether in human rights, finance, etc, cannot just apply to us when convenient and working in our favor,” the faction said in an invited comment. “We also have a responsibility to adhere to them and implement them in our functioning as a country.”

Due to the long-running issue of undocumented persons crossing the borders to evade immigration-related actions, the faction queried whether the Ministry of Justice had informed the relevant authorities of the French Side of the island prior to the Minister issuing this statement. The MPs also asked for clarification on the Minister’s stoppage of the residence permit process. They questioned if the stoppage extended to permit renewals and whether or not consideration will be given to those who may have filed their request to renew and then were faced with a COVID-19 lockdown.

Finally, the PFP faction noted that illegal immigration, worldwide, is fueled by many factors, one of which being the exploitation of illegal/undocumented workers by companies and/or individuals. They asked Minister Richardson what disciplinary and control measures she intended 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.

“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,” the faction’s invited comment continued. “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.”

The faction requested that answers from the Minister be provided within one week.

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