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Friday, July 21, 2006 

Friday, July 21, 2006 - Phillipsburg, St. Marteen, N.A.

Tour convinces minister of
need for change in policy

PHILIPSBURG--After a little “tour” in St. Maarten yesterday Justice Minister David Dick is even more convinced that he is going in the right direction with his immigration policy. The way this policy has been applied till now led to an increasing group of foreigners residing illegally in the Netherlands Antilles, causing problems for the local educational system, health sector and ultimately the affecting the safety of the islands because of illegal and criminal activities.

“We cannot keep on importing poverty and paying for the cost of those who end up in criminality,” said Dick when he visited the public housing project at Union Farm. He also went to Dutch Quarter and Pond Island, among other places, accompanied by State Secretary of Justice Ernie Simmons and State Secretary of Health Rodolphe Samuel.

He said he had witnessed a lot of illegality on Pond Island, reiterating his belief that over the entire Antilles there is a problem with immigration that has to be dealt with.

Dick said the problem was not the immigrants, but the policy. As an example, he mentioned that 50 per cent of the prisoners were foreigners, which he believes means that the “wrong immigrants” are being admitted.

The Minister has been in St. Maarten since last week and has held meetings with the Executive Council to discuss his new immigration policy, among other things. This policy states clearly all the requirements needed for immigrants to obtain their residence permits.

With these new regulations there has already been much discussion about sickness insurance for immigrants according to SVB standards, which is needed for them to receive a residence permits. Dick said the Government could not keep on paying for the medical cost of uninsured foreigners using the tax payers’ money.

During the meeting with the Executive Council another problem that emerged was a communication problem between the Central Government and the Executive Council, said Dick. He called the structure in the Netherlands Antilles “difficult.” Justice issues in the Netherlands Antilles involve not only the Minister, but also the Local Chief of Police, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Executive Council, said Dick.

He sees a need for better communication and said it had been agreed with the Executive Council that several actions would take place in the near future. These intentions were reiterated during a judicial tripartite meeting that took place on Tuesday in Saba between the Minister, State Secretary of Justice Ernie Simmons, Police Chief Commissioner Derrick Holiday, Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein and the Lt. Governors Sydney Sorton of Saba and Hyden Gittens of St. Eustatius.

According to Dick, several areas of concern were discussed during this meeting and detailed proposals will be sent to the Executive Councils for feedback.

In addition, he said there was a need for better synchronisation between the Island Governments that issue employment permits and the Central Government dealing with residence permits.

He said there were situations of immigrants with working permits who didn’t have residence permits. He also pointed out that when an immigrant applied for a residence permit it was not checked whether the immigrant was insured against sickness. Consequently there are immigrants working without being insured.

He said this situation was not correct and only one permit should be issued. Within the Minister’s new policy transition periods will be introduced to change every aspect within the policy into a better way with dealing with immigrants.

Copyright ©2006 The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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