Haitians shocked Labour office closes BTA process

POSTED: 11/28/12 2:13 PM

St. Maarten – President of the United Haitian Community Guerrier Jeston is appealing for leniency on behalf of his community from the Ministry of Labour following the closure of work permit renewal process under the Brooks Tower Accord, yesterday.

Jeston said that approximately 600 Haitians and other immigrant populations stand to be affected by the decision of the Department of Labour Affairs to stick to the original BTA deadline of November 30. He believes that there is a conflict or lack of communication between various government agencies since Haitians were holding on to the word of the prime minister that they would be granted a six month extension in order to submit current documents such birth certificates to complete the process. His people no longer felt a sense of urgency.

“For you to get the Brooks Tower permit you must start at the Labour Department. That is the place where you would have to submit your documents to receive a work permit first. After the prime minister issued her statement on November 14 that an extension of up to 6 months would be granted everybody’s mind was relaxed. We thought we had some time to put in the documents for renewal,” he stated.

He related that he had received many calls as people were now uncertain about their fate.

“Suddenly I get to know yesterday that the Labour Department said that they stop taking documents as of 12:00 pm today. For sure they did stop. I went to meet with the Minister of Labour but his secretary said that he is not on the island and will not be back until two weeks. I then tried to speak with the head of Labour Affairs Peggy-Ann Dros but was told that she also was not in. Most of those people leave with the documents in their hand. Up to now most of the people remain undocumented. I would like to know what happen to the Labour Department if all ministries are supposed to be working together.”

When Jeston visited the Labour Department yesterday he claimed that only 15 numbers were handed out for the data clerks to process applications. He indicated that even though hundreds of people had camped out at the Pond fill location from 3:00 am yesterday morning, they could not be serviced. The agency maintained a strict policy of 15 persons only.

“I tried to get in and couldn’t get in, it was crowded and they stopped at 12 on the dot. I spoke with one of the labour office employees and she told me that what the prime minister put in the newspaper was not for the Labour Office. How come it’s not for Labour Department? You cannot go to immigration without first going through the Labour Department,” Jeston said.

 

He says that he feels betrayed because he has always assisted with getting certain officials elected. Jeston said that considering the importance of the situation, he hopes that someone in government will speak on the issue soon.

“Most of the time when it comes to elections they approach people like me so that I can speak to my people. I help them voluntarily and give them my place to use. When we need them, we need to know which door to knock on now.

A notice for all employers was placed on the door of the Labour Department yesterday. It stated that “The deadline for BTA applications is Friday November 30, 2012. Last payment orders are being prepared and given off at Labour Affairs Department on Tuesday November 27, 2012. This also means that Friday November 30, 2012 is the ultimate last day that receipts from the Receivers Office will be accepted at our booths for the BTA application process.”

Efforts by Today to reach the Department of Labour Affairs for a comment on the issue were unsuccessful.

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