SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson would like to inform the general public that the Immigration laws of Sint Maarten will be strictly enforced in the coming weeks and months, the minister said in a media statement on Wednesday.
Persons who currently reside in Sint Maarten without the legal documentation are advised to take this as a warning and should start making the necessary provisions to voluntarily leave the country or run the risk of getting detained and deported to their country of origin.
The Landsverordening Toelating en Uitzetting (LTU), in English, "National Ordinance of Admissions and Expulsions" regulates the revocation of residence permits for persons who no longer meet the conditions under which their residence permit was granted and the revocation of permanent resident permits for persons who live abroad. As such, the Immigration and Border Protection Services will be collaborating with the Ministry of VSA and the Civil Registry Department to ensure that persons who are in possession of work and residence permits still meet the conditions of which they have acquired.
After the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, many undocumented persons decided to remain on the island, while at the same time, others migrated to the island without the proper documentation in place. With an already weakened and still recovering economy, on top of the most recent, major blow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, job loss on St. Maarten is growing exponentially and will inevitably be the case moving forward, with numerous businesses having to close their doors or scale down their operations.
Persons without an income could possibly resort to a life of crime in order to fend for themselves and their families. Though Sint Maarten is the friendly island and welcomes all visitors, illegal activities will no longer be tolerated. As such, the first step will be the removal of our overstayed guests in order to better handle our internal affairs. Minister Richardson has taken the decision to temporarily suspend the process for first-time applicants for residence permits (exemptions will be made for persons holding critical positions), but will undergo strict scrutiny before being granted a residence permit. Also temporarily suspended are the granting of extensions for nonimmigrant stays, visas for pleasure purposes and the process of having a guarantor.
In the coming weeks, the Ministry of Justice will be implementing a restrictive immigration policy. The intention of the restrictive policy is to make Sint Maarten less vulnerable for illegal immigration. While persons enter the country via legal ports of entry, the common practice of over-staying ones tourist visit or visa, often translates into illegal immigration. This practice has negatively impacted our economic, social and justice systems, hence the aggressive approach by the Minister of Justice in addressing this situation. Controls will be intensified on land and sea as multidisciplinary teams consisting of local law enforcement agencies and other various ministries will be initiated. The Minister also plans to sit down with the French authorities in the near future to establish a better working relationship and explore the possibilities of strengthening border controls as a collective body.