Labour Dept. posts message with xenophobic undertones

~ Removes post, says posted without proper consultation ~

PHILIPSBURG–A message with xenophobic undertones posted on the Department of Labour Affairs’ Facebook page on Wednesday has come in for heavy criticism from the public.

The Department has since removed the public post and issued an apology, saying it had been posted “without proper consultation.”

The message was captioned “Important announcement to undocumented persons or holders of temporary residence permits.”

It read: “We thank you for your contribution to our country, but wish to advise you accordingly. The passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria may have damaged your home and perhaps has wreaked havoc on most areas of your life (including, but not limited to: loss of employment, loss of material assets, etc.). The Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services can offer you immaterial aid (counseling) as well as guidance with which steps should be taken to facilitate your urgent return home to your Country of birth.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide you with assistance (financial or medical), for obvious reasons, as this would be in violation of our national laws and the conditions stipulated in your permit (if you are in possession of one). In the spirit of dignity, please send us a private message so that we can guide you further. Thanks for your cooperation as we strive to build a better St. Maarten.”

The message drew a number of reactions from readers, including one reader who commented on the xenophobic undertones in the message. After the message was removed an apology and retraction was posted, which read: “The Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services herewith immediately retracts and apologises for the announcement made yesterday (Wednesday) on its Facebook page “… undocumented persons or holders of temporary residence permits.”

The department said its Facebook page was managed by several FB administrators, one of whom posted the announcement without proper consultation.

“The post does not reflect the principles and ethics/morals of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour. The post was unfortunate and the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services categorically apologises for any and all confusion or unrest that this ill-fated post may have caused,” the apology read.

“Finally, the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services and by extension the Ministry, together with the Government of St. Maarten, supports international humanitarian conventions that emphasize equality, fair treatment and human dignity for all.”

The message and the apology have drawn the ire of readers, many of whom condemned it.

“Nationalism has no place in a multicultural society. If we go one to three generations back, most of us or our families were immigrants here or elsewhere. After a catastrophe like Irma is not the time for more division. The focus should be on community building,” one person commented under the apology.

“This is the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen from a public entity in my life. Very irresponsible, and that retraction is well, embarrassing. Responsible people need jobs. Fire these clowns. Start with the person/people who shared that, who are employed by that department,” said another person who commented under the post.

Yet, another reader said: “Thank you for acknowledging that that awful statement was very thoughtless and inhumane and represents a complete lack of compassion for your fellow human being. That previous hideous statement is the exact opposite of the sentiments which St. Maarten has and is still receiving from the international community who has opened their hearts and their wallets to give regardless of St Maarten’s skin color, language, religion, nationality, legal status or any other aspect which some might think make them different or better than any other human being on the island.”

Another person commented: “What was posted may yet come to fruition. Pay attention.”

Source: The Daily Herald