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Flight controls to start as French, Dutch execute Franco-Dutch Treaty on St. Maarten/St. Martin

SATURDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2013

~ Committee meets to iron out details ~

PHILIPSBURG–French and Dutch immigration officials will start joint controls on risk and other flights entering SXM Airport (Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA)) in St. Maarten and L’Espérance Airport in French St. Martin as part of the execution of the Franco-Dutch Treaty, Justice Minister Roland Duncan announced at a press conference on Friday.

A committee comprising Dutch and French immigration officials met for the first time on Friday to iron out in detail how the joint controls would be executed, among other issues.

Duncan told reporters that the meeting as well as the enforcement of the Franco-Dutch Treaty was “historical” given that the treaty had been ratified so long ago.

He said the intention was for joint controls to be executed. While this was originally intended for risk flights, the committee will determine which flights will be subjected to controls. The idea is for members of Police aux Frontières (PAF) to be stationed at SXM while members of the St. Maarten Immigration will be at L’Espérance Airport in French St. Martin.

Duncan said provisions had already been made to accommodate the PAF at SXM. Further steps will be made to provide them with an office, he noted. Flights will be checked “under the rules of the treaty,” he said, explaining that matters such as travel document authenticity and whether persons were authorised to enter the country based on the immigration laws would also be checked during controls.

The committee will determine how often it will meet. However, when meetings are held in Dutch St. Maarten, they will be chaired by Solicitor General Taco Stein.

Stein said the committee was to determine in its meeting yesterday what flights should be categorised as risk flights and decide how many PAF or local immigration officers would control flights based on factors such as the number of persons on board the flight.

Duncan said there would be controls at the harbours eventually. Members of the committee are Director of Immigration in St. Maarten Udo Aron; St. Maarten’s Solicitor General Taco Stein; Ajamu Baly of Duncan’s office; Commandant of Police aux Frontières (PAF) Raphaël Harle, French St. Martin Senior Public Prosecutor Flavien Noailles and Judy Honore of the French St. Martin Immigration.

The Franco-Dutch treaty is an accord between the Kingdom of The Netherlands and France intended to improve border controls at the two airports in Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin.

The treaty was signed on May 17, 1994, in Paris, and originals are drawn up in French as well as Dutch. Ratification proved difficult in The Netherlands. Advice from the Estates of the Netherlands Antilles, which said the treaty would have negative effects on Dutch St. Maarten’s tourism industry, initially blocked ratification. There also had been objections to the committee’s authority.

The Parliament of the Kingdom of The Netherlands decided in 1999 to postpone ratification until Dutch St. Maarten made its position clear. The treaty was eventually ratified in 2006.

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