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Thursday, July 13, 2006 

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - Philipsburg, St. Maarten, N.A.


The decision to give undocumented schoolchildren a year’s respite as long as their papers have been applied for is a reasonable and pragmatic solution to what was becoming a burning issue.

On the one hand, the need to strictly enforce the Admittance and Expulsion Ordinance is obvious, considering the current immigration problem, and schools can’t just keep taking unregistered children, with consequences for society as a whole and not least of all themselves. The extra appeals possibilities against refusal of a permit created by the Administrative Justice Ordinance LAR also play a role and it’s not for nothing schools have been asked to stipulate in their letters of acceptance that no rights concerning residency can be derived from them.

On the other hand, the reality is that the bureaucracy involved in issuing residence and employment permits over the years has proven incapable of meeting the demand of the labour market, with the consequence that many foreigners living and working here still have papers in process. Not educating all the children involved in these cases from one day to the next could have far-reaching social consequences.

The Lt. Governor is completely right when he says that in the end the children will suffer if their papers aren’t taken care of and they have to continue their studies or get a job. Their parents or guardians have now been given a year to get their act together, so that the children can continue to enjoy the access to basic education that is the right of every child, according to both international treaties ratified by the Dutch Kingdom and the national ordinance on Compulsory Education.

Just as important is that the authorities in charge of processing the papers get their act together so it can be done in a more timely and efficient manner. The Lt. Governor has set the example by ensuring that all requests for residence permits for children will in principle be handled within three months, provided the Executive Council actually issues the employment permits for their parents within the legal timeframe of six weeks.

It will be interesting to see if it all works out like that in practice, but the transition period at least offers an opportunity to regulate the legitimate cases, so that innocent schoolchildren don’t become victims of the laxness of their parents and/or the stifling government bureaucracy.

Copyright ©2006 The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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