PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman said on Wednesday that while the Dutch government, as part of its conditions to release aid, wants to establish a binding agreement that border control in St. Maarten will be executed by the Marechaussee and the Dutch Customs, the agreement document only made its way to Philipsburg on October 30.
While not going into what the agreement entails, Boasman said there were already binding agreements covering this matter with not only the Dutch Government, but also the governments of Curaçao and Aruba.
“The difference here [in the conditions – Ed.) is that it is stated that the border control will be executed by the Royal Marechaussee – meaning that they would have the lead and they would do that independently of any other agencies, which is not the case at present,” he added.
Boasman said also that no mention is made of local law enforcement agencies, just the Dutch Customs and the Marechaussee. He said St. Maarten currently enjoys “a very good” working relationship with the Royal Marechaussee, which he said is welcomed to the country and whose support to local law enforcement is “appreciated.”
Some changes were made by the Minister and police and forwarded to the Netherlands for ratification, but Parliament, when accepting a motion accepting all conditions as is, hampered the deal. The Dutch now can state that approval was already given by Parliament and therefore would not need the Minister’s okay.
The cooperation with the Marechaussee dates back to the former Netherlands Antilles. The first protocol was entered into in 2004 and 43 Marechaussees were made available to the former Netherlands Antilles as full-time employees (FTEs) since 2008. They are referred to as the “flex pool.”
The cooperation continued after St. Maarten obtained its new constitutional status on October 10, 2010, and a protocol was signed with the Dutch and Curaçao Governments in January 2010 after one of the bi-annual meetings of the four Justice Ministers in the Kingdom. That protocol ran from January 2011 to June 2015 and covered areas such as border control, immigration and control of drugs at borders, combating migration, drugs and violent crimes – the same issues covered in the conditions set by the Dutch Government for aid.
The protocol was evaluated by a Dutch group contracted by now-caretaker Minister of Kingdom Relations and the Interior Ronald Plasterk and an evaluation report dated March 8, 2013, was compiled.
An agreement to extend the “flex pool” of Marechaussees from July 1, 2015, to December 31, 2019, was signed in 2014 and the support was expanded to include Aruba.
“At present, we have a valid protocol – a valid agreement – among all four countries in the Kingdom on the participation of the Royal Marechaussees as far as border control is concerned,” Boasman said, “and it is still valid for at least two more years.” He noted that the condition set by the Dutch government is “directly contrary to that valid protocol.”
Boasman also highlighted several instances where Plasterk himself made reference to the binding agreements involving the Marechaussee and even referred to the benefits of their work in border control in St. Maarten and in the combating of violent crimes, immigration control, combating of human-smuggling and -trafficking, and combating of drug-trafficking at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM.
The existing protocol on border control stipulates that additions or amendments by the signatory countries will take place at the JVO meeting, the next of which will be held in Curaçao in mid-January, 2018, and not “via giving recovery aid to St. Maarten.”
According to Boasman, proposals were made at a JVO conference held at The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa just before Hurricane Irma that the functioning of the Royal Marechaussee flex pool should be reprioritised to focus more on border control, and this will be done.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70814-boasman-border-control-non-issue