Pyrrhic victory in Court for Immigration Director

PHILIPSBURG–Director of Immigration and Border Protection (IBP) Service Udo Aron scored a pyrrhic victory in Court on Thursday in successfully contesting his suspension by the Minister of Justice from June 22. However, the Court of First Instance banned him from returning to his workplace, because the interests of Country St. Maarten would not be served with an enforced cooperation between an unwilling Minister and a Director of Immigration, whose labour contract has already been terminated, the Judge reasoned.

Aron became Director of IBP as per October 1, 2011. His authority to sign documents was lifted from May 13, after a report was filed concerning his possible involvement in human-smuggling. He reportedly allowed entry to a woman from the Dominican Republic, who had no visa for St. Maarten, at Princess Juliana International Airport on May 5.

That day, Aron arrived at the Airport in the company of the woman, walking past Immigration Officers, informing them that he had the situation under control.
His subordinates did not comply with Aron’s statement and told him to follow correct procedures. After consultation with the Acting Head, Aron passed Immigration with the woman. Immigration Officers filed an official complaint and after consultation with them Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo ordered an investigation and called for advice of the Solicitor-General.

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Aron was banned from entering his workplace and all premises of the Immigration and Border Protection Service and suspended from his job on June 22. On August 10, he was served with a ministerial memo in which he was informed that his labour agreement would be terminated as per October 1, 2016.

In the legal proceedings, Aron called upon the Court to have his suspension declared null and void and to declare that Government had acted in contravention of the principles of a good employer. He also requested that the Court order his access to the workplace, and to award damages to the amount of US $1,500, in case of non-compliance.

Aron also complained that no official police investigations into his alleged wrongdoings had started. He, therefore, also called upon the Court to order such investigation, which should be launched within one week after the verdict, against a daily penalty of $1,500, in case of non-compliance.

He, finally, also requested to be informed about the outcome of the investigation at once, also against a penalty to the same amount.

The Court established that this case only dealt with the Minister’s decision to suspend Aron, effectively from May 13. Aron was suspended to give his employer time to investigate his behaviour, including “serious shortcomings in the performance of agreed activities,” the Judge stated.

As a good employer, Government should have properly informed Aron about the reasons for his suspension and should have been given the opportunity to respond. The employer is obligated to pay the worker’s salaries and to inform him about the outcome of any investigations. It may also be expected from an employer that he makes a decision about the continuation of the labour agreement within a reasonable timeframe, which should not be longer than several weeks, the Court said.

In itself, Country St. Maarten was in its right to suspend Aron as the allegations levelled against him were serious. Aron was informed that Government had called upon the Solicitor-General for advice, but the Court did not find any evidence that such an advice had been given, or that Aron had been informed about any advice, or that any investigation had been launched.

Government should have informed Aron about the state of affairs concerning his suspension and should have given him the opportunity to give his side of the story. All in all, the Court arrived at the conclusion that Country St. Maarten had proven not to be a good employer in this case.

Aron’s suspension was declared null and void, which means that Aron would be entitled to resume his duties. However, considering that the Minister does not want Aron back on the job, “which is a vital one in the government apparatus of St. Maarten,” the Court did not order Aron’s return to the workplace.

The Judge said that “enforced cooperation between an unwilling Minister and a Director of Immigration and Border Protection Service, whose labour agreement has already been terminated,” was not in the country’s interest. Country St. Maarten was ordered to pay the legal costs of these proceedings, which were estimated at NAf. 1,299.50.

Source: Daily Herald
Pyrrhic victory in Court for Immigration Director

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