On Photo: Justice Minister Dennis Richardson receiving a copy of thesis on immigration procedures from law student Keisha Richards, at the minister’s office on Wednesday.

Thesis on immigration and principles of good governance.

Young St. Maarten law student Keshia Richards(22), on Wednesday made a presentation to St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson, in the wake of her recently obtaining her HBO law degree at the Hanze Hogeschool in Groningen, Netherlands.


Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, in honoring Ms. Richards’ request to make the presentation, welcomed the initiative, stating that "it is important to support our young people in developing their talents in any way we can".

Richardson added that "in this particular case, it also concerns the daughter of a respected former colleague" (former Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards).

While on St. Maarten several months ago, Ms. Richards initiated her study assignment working as an intern at the Immigration and Naturalization Department.

The exercise afforded her insight into bottlenecks faced by immigration services and resulted in her writing a 52 page master thesis entitled "Residence permits and principles of good governance at IND in St. Maarten", intended for internal purposes.

Coming from St. Maarten, she chose to focus on a topic related to governance on St. Maarten, choosing the immigration process as theme.

Ms. Richards had initially hoped to do her internship at the cabinet of St. Maarten’s minister plenipotentiary in The Hague but quickly realized that immigration is more a matter resorting directly under the government of St. Maarten. By sending e-mails and making enquiries, she eventually secured her internship at the immigration services – providing her a first-hand look at procedures. Her assignment entailed looking at immigration procedures and coming up with possible recommendations on the granting of residence and labor permits.

Among conclusions listed in the report submitted by Ms. Richards is that the process concerning the entry and residence of foreigners in St. Maarten has improved compared to a few years ago, but that there are still several areas that need improvement. The report suggests that the IND keeps better reckoning with taking the principles of good governance into account in the handling of residence permits, as this is not done on a constant basis. The situation is said to be related to a cumbersome relationship with the labor department, when it comes to the timely processing of work permits and synchronization between residence and labor permits.

The thesis mentions how research has shown, that persons residing here illegally and those remaining here longer than originally allowed are not being deported, due to financial constraints and lack of manpower at immigration services.

The findings conclude that IND must ensure that a foreigner be allowed to return to the country of origin in case of violation of the laws of the land. It is therefore recommended to draft a law, whereby the foreigner (who is being legally admitted to St. Maarten) upon arrival to St. Maarten, deposits money on a special bank account of the IND. The amount deposited would equal the cost of a return ticket to the country of origin of the foreigner, should the foreigner be deported or expelled from St. Maarten.

Additional recommendations listed in the report are that:

· The residence permit and labor permit be linked to each other in a way that expiration dates of permits are synchronized.

· A "one-stop-shop" approach be implemented so that undocumented persons do not have to provide the very same documents separately at both the labor department and immigration services and that

· information folders be published in several languages, informing these persons of procedures and how to appeal decisions.

Ms. Richards expresses her sincere gratitude to Udo Aron (director of the IND), August Emanuel (mentor during her study assignment), Robert Barbij (Head of control) and Gwendolyn Mossel (Policy worker), for their supportive roles during her internship at the IND.

Ms. Richards will now continue to study notary law at university in Leiden, Netherlands, during the upcoming academic year. The decision for studying Notary law lies in her interest in real estate, corporate law, family law and inheritance law. Her Intention is to return to St. Maarten after concluding her studies.