Council on Law Enforcement presents Border Control report to Justice Minister

The Council on Law Enforcement on Wednesday presented its report, Border Control in St. Maarten, to St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson.
Making the presentation to the minister was Franklyn Richards, chairman of the Council on Law Enforcement and Marianne Luijks-Steenbergen, secretary-general at the council’s Secretariat.
In accepting the report, Minister Richardson expressed gratitude and indicated that the findings mentioned in the report, serve to guide initiatives aimed at improving the border control on the movement of persons in St. Maarten.
Pursuant to the Kingdom Act on the Law Enforcement Council, the Minister will be given the opportunity to send suggestions mentioned in the report to Parliament within six weeks. This is to be accompanied by the minister’s policy response.
The report is the result of the council’s inspections conducted in 2013 regarding border control on the movement of persons at St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International airport, inland waterways, territorial seas and harbors. Border control serves to control who enters into and who departs the country and whether persons comply with the conditions for admittance to Sint Maarten.

Ever since 2012, St. Maarten’s border control has been integrated into the Immigration and Border Protection Service (IBPS), a section of the ministry of Justice. Prior to that period, border control was the responsibility of the Police Force of Sint Maarten.

The Council on Law Enforcement is of the opinion that while control at the border is in good hands with the IBPS, there are particular areas requiring additional attention.

The IBPS is not only responsible the border control but also for the admission of foreigners. The Council remarks that it is of the utmost importance that continuous attention is drawn to possible breaches of integrity and conflicts of interest. An active integrity policy is not yet supported by a code of conduct for personnel. An active and alert attitude of the management is required on all levels, requiring management to take and maintain this initiative. Codes of conduct regularly be brought to the attention of employees. Practical and dilemma training are important and integrity infringements must be clearly, consistently and transparently be responded to, says the report.

The Council has noticed that the focus of the IBPS entirely rests on document control and the control on conditions for admittance. Suspicious situations and suspicious conduct would not always be recognized by the IBPS personnel. This could lead to valuable information relevant for investigations being lost. The training of the IBPS personnel should be more focused on this subject, says the council on law enforcement.

Maritime Control
Pursuant to the applicable law in Sint Maarten, persons may not be disembarked outside of Great Bay and the airport. In practice (except via the airport) persons enter into Sint Maarten via several locations at, for instance, Oyster Pond, Point Blanche, Great Bay and the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
In fact, at all of these mooring locations, maritime control is very limited, while the registration discipline in the navigation traffic already is not up to par. The maritime control on the French side of the Simpson Bay Lagoon is in hands of French authorities and is carried out by the customs. According to persons interviewed, the admittance control on the French side of the lagoon is limited and certainly needs improvement also. Within the framework of the Franco-Dutch Treaty, more attention needs to be paid in the cooperation between French and Dutch authorities, where it regards border control on the lagoon.

Back office
In 2012, a back office was installed at the Juliana airport, manned by employees of the Police Force of Sint Maarten and the Royal Marechaussee. The back office functions as entrance to investigations after the primary control of the IBPS. The Council has observed that the cooperation and information exchange between the back office and the IBPS is not optimal. Recently, an improvement in the cooperation has been noticed, however. The Council has suggested the Minister of Justice to promote that all parties involved in border control, invest in a better cooperation and information exchange, in the interest of the investigation and optimal border supervision in Sint Maarten.

The immigration service shares information collected, for instance, about trends on human trafficking, but not always necessarily with the back office. Just as the Progress Committee already did, the Council emphasizes that investigation of criminal offenses is and must remain an exclusive task of the Police. For the optimal execution of this task, assigned to it by the legislative branch of government, the Police Force must be able to rely on the entire cooperation of other services, which all pursue the safety and security of Sint Maarten.

Combating of human trafficking and human smuggling
The contribution which border control provides to the combating of human trafficking and human smuggling, is limited. Border control employees of the IBPS and the Coast Guard estimate that the interception of suspects only place a few times per.

Final considerations
in 2011, 733.072 persons entered Sint Maarten via the airport and in 2012, 758.433 persons. In those years respectively 314 and 111 persons where refused admittance at the border. The equal number of persons had been expelled from Sint Maarten in those years. This relatively small number of refused persons means that border control is not the answer to illegal immigration. In a large number of cases, illegality arises after legal entry into Sint Maarten is followed by persons not leaving the island when they should.

The governing program for 2012-2014, “Working for the people”, mentions the following regarding immigration policy: Stricter border control will also be executed, in particular with the addition of a mobile surveillance unit to patrol communities. Besides that, the Minister of Justice of Sint Maarten has formulated a restrictive admittance policy towards foreigners.

However, persons who have been interviewed by the Council on Law Enforcement indicate an ambiguous attitude with regard to the problem with undocumented persons. There is some concern about lack of political support in Sint Maarten for the execution of a strict admittance policy and targeted actions to detect illegality. In Sint Maarten, illegality is socially accepted; it is seen as a fact of life.
Where on one hand it is mentioned, for instance, for its alleged negative effects on the economy, employment and criminality, the community continues to make use of cheap labor and to benefit from the presence of so-called ‘illegals’. The IBPS says to also experience that in the form of attempts to influence its decisions, notes the council in its findings.

After six weeks the report will be available for downloading at