Duncan leads discussion on immigration, human smuggling and information sharing

POSTED: 04/13/12 4:21 PM

St. Maarten – Law enforcement officials from the various departments and bodies discussed combating illegal immigration, human smuggling and information sharing with kingdom partners at a meeting led by Justice Minister Roland Duncan. The meeting was held at the Philipsburg Police Station on Wednesday.

In the final declaration of the November 2, 2006, the Netherlands, Curacao and St. Maarten decided that there will be a regulation containing agreements between partners in the kingdom on the immigration sector with respect to Information Communication Technology (ICT), quality of procedures regarding the processing of permits, professionalism of the immigration sector and integrity. The regulation seeks to guarantee a good working immigration sector within the countries in order to create an effective combating of illegal immigration, an effective combating of human smuggling and human trade and information sharing between the countries.

The Netherlands, Curacao and St. Maarten signed this Regulation for cooperation between the countries in the Kingdom as it relates to the immigration sector on March 8, 2010. With the signing of this regulation the countries within the Kingdom remain responsible and have the authority regarding the development and execution of their immigration policy. The immigration sector consist of organizations that deals with the coast and border control, the admittance of persons, control, deportation and expulsion.

In order to live up to the agreement it is essential that the countries appoint an immigration authority in their respective countries. St. Maarten has appointed the Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), Udo Aron as the Immigration Authority, who will chair the meetings of the immigration sector that will be held twice a year. Discussion at these meetings will focus on the execution of the immigration policy and the systems – including registration systems – in order to effectively exchange information between the organizations in the immigration sector.

The Immigration authorities within the Kingdom will exchange information and assist each other in the fields of education, technical assistance and personnel. The ministers responsible for immigration will also meet twice a year to discuss cooperation.

During the top level meeting on Wednesday the Minister of Justice mentioned the continuous discussions that he has with his counterparts regarding ICT as it relates to the justice chain. The regulation for cooperation between the countries in the kingdom as it relates to the immigration sector, clearly states that countries need to have similar ICT systems or an ICT system that makes it possible to exchange information.

The Minister of Justice came to the conclusion that the systems of the justice chain needs to be improved drastically in order to be effective for country St. Maarten. He also believes they should be made more country specific and operate from the country.

Another point of discussion the Minister of Justice brought forward is the public discourse regarding immigration as it pertains to human smuggling or the influx of immigrants. He believes too much emphasis is being placed on the repressive note and not enough focus is being placed on human rights.

“Within the Caribbean people are moving from island to island and the smugglers that risk these people’s lives needs to be incarcerated.  It was agreed that the safety of these people have to be looked at. The detention of these people, who are victims of human smuggling, must have the option to be repatriated to their countries of origin and not punish them because they entered the country illegally,” a release states.

Another aspect is the prevention of people from entering the country illegally. The United States is struggling with an immigration situation and spends millions of dollars on border control. Still the situation of illegal immigration exists there. The minister said that the country cannot afford spending “that amount of money” into controls, but will strive to manage immigration. Duncan expects these immigration sector meetings will bring forward information that will help to develop policies in ways that the country can manage its immigration affairs.

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