Nicaraguan nationals report exploitation | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Three Central American men went to the Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND) on A.Th. Illidge Road last Tuesday to file a report against their employer, according to police Sunday.

These men were heard by IND personnel and referred to the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM Human-Smuggling/Human-Trafficking Department. At the office, the three men told their story of being exploited. After taking their statement, it was explained to the men that this possible case of exploitation took place on the French side where KPSM has no jurisdiction.

It was further explained to them that they would have to go to the French authorities to file an official complaint against their employer, stated police. “Contact was also made with the Prosecutor who is assigned to human-trafficking cases and he was informed of the situation. He agreed that this matter should be handled by the French authorities.

“He instructed the human-trafficking team to share the information with the French authorities, which was done the following morning, May 29. On that same day, a ‘Good Samaritan’ brought four other Central American men to the Philipsburg police station. These men also came to file a complaint against the same employer.”

Members of the Human-Trafficking team listened to their story and advised them to make contact with the French authorities.

While waiting for the members of the French St. Martin Police Aux Frontières (PAF) to arrive, members of the Alpha team transported another Central American man from Princess Juliana International Airport to the Philipsburg police station. Apparently, this man missed his flight back to Central America. This gentleman also complained about being exploited by the same employer on the French side.

When the PAF members arrived at the police headquarters, they listened to the men’s stories and informed them that they would have to return to the French side to receive the necessary assistance to resolve this matter. All of them volunteered to go back to the French side with the PAF.

The PAF members and all of the men involved were escorted by the Dutch Immigration Mobile Unit to the French side to resolve this matter.

While the police press release did not identify the French-side company, last week a group of Nicaraguan workers residing on the Dutch side who said they were working at Secrets Hotel complained to a well-known Dutch-side news website about abuse, exploitation and low pay (in US dollars) by a painting company that employed them. The company reportedly is a French-side-based Spanish company that worked with Secrets Hotel before when it was Riu Palace.

PAF confirmed it is investigating the matter in collaboration with the Dutch-side police and the French-side Labour Department to determine whether labour and immigration laws have been adhered to.

KPSM reminds and warns the community, in particular contractors, that the hiring of illegal persons is in violation of articles 2:239, 2:154 and 2:155 of the Code of Criminal Law and the labour laws. The situation at this point in regard to these persons is becoming a problem. These persons, because of their illegal status, are being targeted and are becoming victims of serious criminal acts by criminal elements in the community.

KPSM, in particular the Human-Trafficking/Human-Smuggling Department, under no circumstances will tolerate the trafficking, smuggling or exploitation of any person or persons, legal or illegal.

Even if a person does not have legal status on the island, he or she has a right to file a report of any criminal act against him/her. Combating human-trafficking and human-smuggling is one of the priorities of the St. Maarten Police Force and the Prosecutor’s Office.

Source: The Daily Herald