~ Lack of compliance by employers must be addressed.~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of Justice Anna Richardson took the lid off at Wednesday's Council of Ministers' press conference when she addressed some of the abuse undocumented workers faced on St. Maarten.
Minister Richardson was asked how long an undocumented person stays behind bars when they are picked up and who pays for the person’s ticket when it’s been decided they will be deported. The Minister said the Ministry of Justice is working with some of these persons who have since been released with the condition that they must check in with immigration from time to time.
Richardson said when someone is arrested, they are being interviewed to determine exactly how long the person has been on the island. Persons that have applied will have their status checked within the system. Based on that the Minister said that some persons were released with a condition to check in with immigration where discussions will be held on the person's status. The Minister further explained some persons are given the opportunity to regulate their statuses because they probably established a family on St. Maarten, she said there are those that just came to the island and found odd jobs and did not make an effort to apply for residency. “These are the persons that are targeted because they do not contribute anything to the island.”
Abuse by Employers.
The Minister of Justice said that there are persons that have been living on St. Maarten for several years and have been working for companies and these companies have refused to file for their employees. The Minister condemned such situations since it is abuse towards the undocumented. She said when these persons are interviewed they are in tears expressing what they go through even though they are gainfully employed. Richardson said too often the criticism that comes with the controls overlooks the abuse the undocumented face and this is one thing the government has to tackle because it is unfair to these persons.
There are persons that have pays slips and job letters and these persons would approach the immigration department to apply for documents and when they are questioned they would inform immigration that their employers have refused to sign for them. The reason for this is because these people are being underpaid and these employers believe there are no consequences for their actions. “This must change because the issue being faced is a lack of compliance. Employers must respect the laws that have been established. These are not my laws or the Minister of VSA, these laws exist and must be adhered to.”
There are those whose taxes are being deducted but are not even registered at the tax department, that is why everyone should file their own taxes so these delinquent employers can be identified.
She made clear that government is not anti-migrant but in fact has been embracing the immigrants. The Minister further explained that there are youths that were brought up in St. Maarten but they are undocumented. She said there are parents who sought to regulate their own documents but never regulated the documents for their children. “Today those children are adults that have been sending letters on a day-to-day basis explaining their situations and how much they have tried to get themselves regulated,” Richardson explained that the Ministry is working with these people to get them regulated.
The Minister further said that quite often the onus is placed on the government for what they are doing and not doing, yet there are so many persons that are either Dutch nationals or legally residing on St. Maarten and they are not able to find work, yet someone that arrives in the day can find work by night, this for sure is not fair and this where justice comes in.