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Soualiga News Today (3176)

No more hope for tens of thousands stateless and at risk of expulsion as residence deadline expires

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Sint Maarten Dominican Republic and Haitian communities are monitoring developments in their country very carefully to see exactly what will happen in the coming days as the deadline for those who may have a friend whose status is stateless, to gain legal status runs out as of February 1st.  The aforementioned is also relevant for the Dominican Republic/Haitian communities of Saba, St. Eustaius, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis, who may have friends who are stateless in the Domincan Republic.

 

Tens of thousands of individuals born in the Dominican Republic, the vast majority of Haitian descent, will be put at risk of expulsion when the deadline to register for residence expires on 1 February, said Amnesty International. 

 

“At the stroke of midnight (Ed January 31st/February 1st) the hopes of tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be scuppered as this deadline expires. This could leave thousands at risk of possible expulsion from the country,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director, Amnesty International. 

 

“Even if these people are able to stay in the Dominican Republic after the deadline expires, their futures are woefully uncertain. While the terms ‘resident’ and ‘stateless’ might seem bureaucratic, in reality legal citizenship can be vital to open up access to education, healthcare and work, among other fundamental rights.”

 

Law 169/14, introduced in May 2014, required those born to undocumented foreign parents, whose birth was never declared in the Dominican Republic, to register to a special scheme to obtain a residence permit which would be needed to later claim citizenship in the country. The deadline to register will run out on Sunday 1 February and has not been extended. That means all those not already registered in the system will lose the possibility of ever being granted Dominican nationality. 

 

Just a tiny percentage of those eligible to register under the law have been able to start the process before time ran out. The Minister of the Interior said that by 9 January, 5,345 people had applied to the regularization scheme under Law 169/14. This represent less than 5% of the estimated 110,000 people entitled to do so. 

 

The law was introduced after widespread condemnation of the Dominican constitutional court’s decision to retroactively deprive thousands of people of foreign descent of their Dominican nationality, which left them stateless. The new law obliged these people to register themselves as foreigners and re-apply for Dominican citizenship from scratch. 

 

“It is about time to put an end to this crisis. The simple fact is that when the vast majority of these people were born, the Dominican law at the time recognized them as citizens. Stripping them of this right, and then creating impossible administrative hurdles to stay in the country is a violation of their human rights,” said Erika Guevara Rosas. 

 

Expulsions are already being reported. On 27 January, 51 people, including 30 Dominican-born children, some of their mothers and 14 other adults were deported without due process to Haiti from the Dominican Republic. 

 

Law 169/14 creates two categories of people: those who at some point were registered in the Dominican civil registry, and those whose birth was never declared. 

 

Even most of those in the first group, who should have been able to have their Dominican nationality returned in a quick procedure, have been waiting for months and to this day many remain de facto stateless. 

 

Juan Alberto Antuan Vill is a young man of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic and registered in the Dominican civil registry at the time of his birth. He has been denied his identity documents for many years by the Dominican authorities. He told Amnesty International: 

 

“We are extremely worried because the authorities continue to deny the existence of statelessness, but it's our reality. We don't trust the whole process because of the people leading it. Discrimination exists in this country, I can’t work and I can’t access vital services.”

 

“For too long the Dominican Republic has ridden rough-shod over the rights of Haitian descendants within their country. This injustice has gone on long enough and now the government must take urgent steps to fully restore the Dominican nationality of the thousands vulnerable people that were born, have lived and worked in the country for decades,” said Erika Guevara Rosas. 

Background 

Law 169/14 has come under intense criticism before. In October 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the law violated the American Convention on Human Rights. The Dominican authorities immediately rejected the ruling and refused to comply with it. They have also repeatedly stated that nobody has been made stateless. 

 

Hundreds of thousands of descendants of Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic. In many cases their relatives had been actively encouraged to come to the Dominican Republic since the 1940s, through bi-lateral agreements between the two countries aiming to relocate a cheap labour force to work in the sugarcane plantations. 

 

For decades the Dominican state formally recognized the children of Haitian migrants born in the country as Dominican citizens, issuing Dominican birth certificates, identity cards and passports to them, irrespective of the migration status of their parents. (Amnesty International)

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Ministry of Justice: Intensified Multidisciplinary Agency Controls of Businesses to Start Soon

PHILIPSBURG - The Multidisciplinary Control Team have developed plans to intensify controls at places of business. The multidisciplinary controls consist of members of the Inspection and Control departments of Government such as; the Immigration & Border Protection Services, the Labour & Health Inspectorate, the SZV department Control & Levies, the Inspectorate of VROMI, The Economic Control Department and the Fire Department.

Given the multidisciplinary nature of the controls various issues will be examined such as adhering to the labor regulations, illegal employees, work safety measures, fire safety measure, adherence to the building code and adherence to the social & health insurance regulations and business and operational license regulations. The Multidisciplinary Control Team will also gear their controls toward identifying cases of human trafficking.

A team of 10-35 officers, depending on the size of the case, will be in charge of carrying out these inspections at the appropriate time.

Businesses & employers will be fined in case of violations. Fines may add up to NAf. 20,000 or to an amount equaling any outstanding premiums that have yet to be paid. This amount is to be paid within a certain period of time and if the business fails to pay its fines, it will be prosecuted and face foreclosure. Illegal employees will be taken into custody followed by regular legal procedures and necessary measures to ensure swift repatriation.

The Control and Inspection departments are urging people to carry the necessary papers and valid identification at all times, in order to facilitate these controls and inspections. Businesses should ensure that all of their necessary paperwork is also in order. (Ministry of Justice, Sint Maarten)

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Caribbean Waterbird Census held on St. Maarten Commemorating World Wetlands Day

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation in partnership with local bird expert and volunteer Binkie van Es and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance will be submitting information for the Caribbean Wide Waterbird Census, the recording of which happened on Saturday the 31st of January commemorating World Wetlands Day. With many species of waterbird in decline around the world, van Es recently joined conservationists from all six islands of the Dutch Caribbean for the first time in order to consider how to monitor and conserve the islands’ wetland birds, including eight globally threatened or near threatened species.

Nearly one in five waterbird species are considered globally threatened mainly due to human impact on their habitat from pollution, land conversion and tourism development. The birds are important not only as part of the islands’ biodiversity, but their populations are early indicators of the health of wetland areas.

A number of declining shorebirds utilize wetlands in the Caribbean as places to rest and refuel on their long migration flights and several species have substantial populations which spend the winter on these same wetlands.   Conserving and managing these wetlands is a key component in providing for the year round habitat for many of these birds.

One of our most ‘at risk’ birds is the globally threatened Caribbean Coot (Fulica caribaea). Other ‘at risk’ species include the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis), Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica), Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus), Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), and Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens).

The monitoring will be part of a regional Caribbean, multi-partner wetland monitoring initiative led by BirdsCaribbean, which organizes an annual regionwide count over three weeks beginning in mid-January. The count provides a “snapshot” of waterbird population numbers and habitat use throughout the Caribbean. During the bird counts on Saturday some twenty different bird species were counted around the Great Salt Pond.

The program is being run by BirdsCaribbean’s Executive Director and bird expert Dr. Lisa Sorenson, along with Jeff Gebraecht, eBird manager and neotropical bird expert from Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.  The workshop was funded by Environment Canada and Vogelbescherming Nederland.

The census will record birds on most of Sint Maarten’s ecologically important wetlands including the Great Salt Pond and Mullet Pond, which is currently waiting its approval as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.

Wetlands, including the Great Salt Pond, besides being essential bird habitat for Sint Maarten, are also important in controlling flooding in the districts caused by heavy rain and providing habitat for many different bird species. The United Nations Environment Program considers wetlands as one of the most important biodiversity habitats within the wider Caribbean.

Bird Tourism is also a billion dollar a year industry with many travelers paying large sums of money to see and photograph birds. On Sint Maarten there are increasing requests from foreign visitors to photograph the many birds in our wetlands. Though there are a few companies offering birding tours, birding tourism remains an untapped yet potentially resource for Sint Maarten’s sustainable development. (Nature Foundation)

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School Host Mock Election

PHILIPSBURG - This week students of the Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School was given the opportunity to cast their ballots in a ‘mock election’, which was part of the Project Approach on Citizenship/Government.

The Cycle 2 year 2 students along with their classroom Teacher Tracy Joseph worked diligently to create manifestos which highlighted the goals each party expected to achieve if they win the election.

The aim of this project was to enable students to be active learners as they demonstrate an understanding of some fundamental rights of the Dutch citizen, that is, the right to vote and be voted for. This activity also developed awareness of the election process and how a government is formed.


“We are equipping our students with the educational experiences to be ready for the democratic and political responsibilities of continuing to lead this country forward in the coming years,” remarked School Manager Stuart Johnson.

As students campaigned throughout the school the core social values, such as, respect and fairness among peer were reinforced.  Pupils also learned teamwork through this endeavor. The ideas of each party were supported and all members were respected.

The teacher hopes that the values and insight students have gained from the Project Approach about citizenship and government would have informed them about civic issues that affect them and their families, and become especially useful when they grow older.

“I was fortunate also cast my ballot for the respective party and candidate who I could identify with my beliefs. I congratulate Teacher Joseph and her students for a job well done,” Johnson concluded. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School)

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CPS Alerts Family Physicians on Wednesday to be observant due to Measles Outbreak in the U.S.

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, on Wednesday advised local family physicians to be observant with respect to measles.

This cautionary measure comes due to the measles outbreak in parts of the United States. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has sent out a circular to all public health authorities in the region to monitor the global measles situation and in particular the current outbreak in the United States and Mexico.

The Caribbean sub-region has been successful in maintaining a measles-free status since 1991.  In light of the strong travel ties between the Caribbean and the USA, and given that we are in the midst of the tourism high-season, CARPHA has advised enhanced vigilance for fever-rash syndromes among members of the local and visitor populations.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that from January 1 to January 23, 68 people from 11 states were reported to have measles.

Most of these cases are part of a large, ongoing outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.  In 2014, the United States according to the CDC experienced a record number of measles cases, 644 cases from 27 states, and this is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

CPS advises guardians and parents to check their children’s vaccination status to see whether they are up to date.  If persons decide to travel, they should also check their vaccination status and to make use of every opportunity to get vaccinated according to the schedule.

The majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated.  Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.

Other individuals who should get their vaccination status checked are, health care workers, pregnant women, pre-and exam class students, as well as groups at risks such as waste/garbage handlers, the Police, hotel and restaurant workers, and others to verify and update their vaccination status, particularly on Hepatitis B and Tetanus.

Immunization averts an estimated two-three million deaths every year, protecting children from diphtheria, measles, pertussis (better known as whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella, tetanus and others.

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POLICE KEEP STREETS SAFE AND CONDUCT TRAFFIC CONTROLS. 150 FINES ISSUED

POINT BLANCHE - During the week of Sunday January 25th through January 29th 2015 the Port of Sint Maarten has been quite busy with the large amount of cruise ship arrivals totaling 24 thus far.

By the end of the week the amount of cruise vessel arrivals should surpass 30. The streets of Sint Maarten have been quite busy with the many cruise passengers visiting the island.

The Police Department has also been extremely busy providing the necessary safety and security for the visitors and the entire community.

During the day you could see the officers on patrols and keeping a keen eye out to what is going on.

Officers were seen controlling many vehicles and regulating the flow of traffic. During this period approximately 150 fines were given to drivers who were in violation of the traffic laws. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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Nature Foundation Again Expresses Concern on Beach Access for Residents

DAWN BEACH - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has grave concerns regarding recent reports coming from Dawn Beach and other beaches which again highlights the need for clear legislation as to the use of beaches on St. Maarten.

Beaches are St. Maarten’s primary natural resources and the major natural asset for resident and visitor alike. The Nature Foundation urges decision makers to ratify and implement legislation where residents, regardless of background, can enjoy all of the country’s natural resources.

“There should be no situation where a resident is harassed or barred from using any of the beaches on the island, and clear legislation with associated penalties should be in place to ensure that those infringing on the rights of residents to use their natural resources are not trampled on,” stated Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation would also like to see beaches managed, not only in ecological and environmental terms, but also for the beach-going public. Shade trees, such as the ones recently planted on Belair Beach, garbage bins and trash clean-up initiatives and seaweed removal schemes are essential for not only keeping the ecological balances of the beaches but also providing a pleasant beach-going environment for both residents and visitors.

The Nature Foundation will be appealing for the drafting and the implementation of a National Law for the Protection and Management of Beaches on St. Maarten. (Nature Foundation)

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Kids at Sea Foundation Students making Swift Progress with Boat Building Project

SOUTH REWARD - Kids at Sea Foundation is extremely proud to announce that swift progress is being made by the Milton Peters College 3rd and 4th Form Carpentry Students on their Didi 26, Sloop Design, the first such racing sloop in the Build Your Future Program.

On the day pupils returned to school following the winter break, supplies of specialty wood and materials were delivered.  The supplies weighed several tons and required many students and teachers to assist in the offloading.  The students then wasted no time in unpacking, taking an inventory and setting out the plans to begin. First the frame for the deck was made, followed by inlays for the bulk heads, as depicted by the photos included.

The carpentry students participating in this project have also been undergoing sail training since the beginning of the school year. Those who successfully complete the program will have sailing certification level 1, and all have a goal to race their completed vessel in the 2016 Heineken Regatta.

Currently, over 30 students have signed up for sailing instruction with Kids at Sea for the 2015 program which is the largest group to date!

Kids at Sea Foundation is a volunteer organization providing marine related learning opportunities to High School students.  We are participants in the Samenwerkende Fondsen Kansen Voor Jongeren Cariben since 2014.  We are also supported by members of the Marine Trades Association and generous members of the wider St. Maarten Community.  To get involved, to participate or make a contribution please contact us at via our website www.kidzatsea.com.

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Positive Response to IATA’s Presentation on Automated Passport Control at SXM Airport

SIMPSON BAY, SXM Airport - Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Hon. Claret Connor, is in full support of the initiative of the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, to introduce Automatic Passport Control (APC) at the facility and his colleague Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson is cooperating very closely with the airport in this endeavor.         

This was revealed by Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, following the presentation made Tuesday to all stakeholders by Filipe Pereira dos Reis, of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Anthony Henn of SITA.         

LaBega said the feedback from the presentations was “overwhelmingly positive” and singled out Udo Aaron, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice and Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of St. Maarten for his “visionary outlook and support” of the project.

“We are very encouraged by all the understanding and cooperation we have been receiving from the authorities and all the stakeholders concerning this project and I believe together, we will be able to get it off the ground and transform SXM into the leader in Caribbean aviation and one of the best airports in our region,” LaBega said.

According to Pereira dos Reis, “SXM needs to be connected globally.” He said he had walked through the airport and “it looks like SXM can accommodate it with some infrastructural changes.”

Implementing the APC would be a “potential game changer if SXM wants to be a serious regional hub,” he continued, while he noted that “Not having interlink agreements between airlines is not necessarily an impediment.” The IATA official pointed to the fact that Schipol Airport in Amsterdam has made “huge investments” in this regard. “It’s a strategic decision for SXM to make,” he said. 

During his interactive presentation titled, “The Perfect Passenger Experience,” Pereira dos Reis revealed that “by 2020, eighty percent of global passengers will be offered secure fast travel experience.” The goal, he said, is to get departing passengers from the “curb to the duty free area in 10 minutes,” and from the moment of arrival to the taxi in 30 minutes.

IATA’s aim, therefore, is to “partner with SXM to take it to the next level,” he said. “We’re changing the process with technology.” This is becoming more available and affordable due to competition, he added.

The “perfect passenger experience” means “fast travel” through self-service options in a number of areas, “passenger facilitation,” that results in an “end-to-end passenger experience that is seamless, secure and efficient,” and “smart security” that allows passengers to move through security and immigration check points with “minimal need to divest.”

In his comments following the presentations, Udo Aaron said, “this is the way of the future; we cannot afford to lag behind.”

For his part, SITA’s Anthony Henn, stressed that “Security is a balancing act,” especially due to budget constraints, which affects everyone including rich oil producing countries who are now seeing the price of oil fall precipitously on the world market.

SITA, he said, offers a “complete set of capabilities to transform border security and facilitate the travel experience,” which it calls “iBorders.” This is achieved through “information, intelligence, optimised interactions with travelers and comprehensive insights to enhance every aspect of border operations.”

Among those in attendance at the presentations were top officials of SXM Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministries of TEATT and Justice, as well as airline representatives. (SXM Airport)

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Timeshare Association Calls for Urgent Summit with Key Stakeholders of Law-making and Advice

PHILIPSBURG - “The time for decisive action is now,” says St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA) Chairman Marcel Javois.

“The SMTA has taken keen note of the recent comments and statements surrounding the Timeshare Ordinance. We believe that it is now time for urgent action with this matter having been on the table for over 18 years.”   

The SMTA has just learned that the Council of Advice is unhappy with the Timeshare Ordinance and the Timeshare Authority Ordinance which will assist government and consumers in regulating the timeshare industry being in the English language.

According to a SMTA press release, “At the time the laws were drafted for Member of Parliament Hon. Leroy de Weever, the initiator of the laws, then Minister of Justice Hon. Roland Duncan and the supervising expert of the legislation, Judge Professor de Boer, believed that there was ample justification for the laws to be drafted in English as it is one of our two official languages.

“In April of last year the SMTA met with Minister of Justice Hon. Dennis Richardson, who said that many timeshare concepts were so English specific given that Holland has only one small timeshare property, that English should be used but the law should be as a separate National law rather than part of the Civil Code, which needs to be as uniform as possible throughout the Kingdom. We understand that the Council of Advice is also not satisfied with that as a solution.

“Given the late hour and the urgency of the issue as a national priority now that two large timeshare properties are having serious trouble and government has no tools to help, the SMTA hereby calls for an immediate summit to be convened with the current Parliamentary initiator of the law, the Ministers of TEATT and Justice, the Council of Advice, the Ombudsman, Legal Affairs and the SMTA in order to make a plan to get this legislation corrected and if necessary, translated properly to Dutch, and passed in the shortest time possible,” the SMTA concluded in its press release sent out on Wednesday. (SMTA)

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