Soualiga Grassroots Movement wants moratorium on residence permitsPOSTED: 11/6/14 9:28 AM
Marigot, St. Martin – The Soualiga Grassroots Movement is urging the government of the Collectivité Saint Martin, along with Préfet Philippe Chopin, to institute an immediate moratorium on the “indiscriminate issuance of residence permits”, carte de sejour, and have current permits renewed only on the condition that the holder has a valid job contract. This comes in response to the Territorial Council’s decision to impose a 30% tax deduction on the Revenu Solidarité Active (RSA), a national social benefit, which, according to the association, is being abused by immigrants who come to the island to receive the aid. Beneficiaries who receive this social aid may have 30% of the total amount given to them deducted from their monthly compensation. This social aid was put in place to help those who can prove they are unable to provide for themselves or their family.
The Soualiga Movement, however, argues that the RSA is a right of the citizens under the French Constitution, and if citizens qualify for it, they should be allowed this compensation without taxation. “Rather than stigmatize and blame the weak and fragile St. Martiner, who has every right to the solidarity and support of his country, the government should protect and help the people of St. Martin. These new illegitimate taxes further serve to marginalize the unemployed and underemployed in our society,” said Horace White, president of the Soualiga Grassroot Movement. He says a part of the problem is that the system is being abused by those who receive the social aid. Many people receive this aid, while working on the Dutch side of the island; others receive the aid and then return to their home country. According to Horrace, often times immigrants come to the island specifically to receive the RSA.
Along with a moratorium on residence permits, the Soualiga Movement urges the local government to renegotiate with the State of France to take back the financing of the RSA; as of now the management is still in State hands. In addition, the association implores the local government to investigate and prosecute those who are taking advantage of the social benefit system. The association would also like the government to root out any forms of corruption, cronyism, favoritism and nepotism on the level of the Collectivité, which, as the association pointed out, may be the reason why residence permits are being issued indiscriminately, resulting in an influx of immigrants who depend on the social aid, thereby contributing to the deficit.
As previously reported by this newspaper, Whit, the association’s president, said that the immigration situation concerning the issuance of residence permits has to be taken into hand by the local government. Whit claimed the Préfet was overstepping his role by issuing the residence permits without consulting the local government: “The reality is that the Préfect is making all of the decisions without sharing that responsibility with the local government…. He is issuing all of the residence permits without consulting or sharing these decisions with the local government. There is a law in place that states the Prefect must consult the local government; however, in doing so, he is overstepping this law.” He went on to say, “What we want to impress on the local government is that they must assume their responsibility, and not leave the prefect make decisions that belong to them. In doing so, they are forfeiting their responsibility as a representative of the people.”
Reportedly, some 3,800 persons (about 9% of the population) receive the RSA on French St. Martin. There was an 80.7% increase in the number of persons who receive the RSA in the three-year period between 2010 and 2013, which, in turn, costs the Collectivité approximately 16 million Euros annually. By imposing this 30% tax, the Collectivité would save 4.4 million euros each year. The association, however, believes that by imposing a moratorium on residence permits, rather than a 30% tax on the RSA, the local government would effectively eliminate the annual 16 million deficit and permit the Collectivité to invest in the further development of the country and the people of St. Martin.