02 MARCH 2017
POND ISLAND–The admittance policy applicable to visa-restricted crewmembers as of February 25 is not new, rather it reflects the placing of government’s immigration policy for this visitors “on paper in a clear fashion,” said Justice Minister Rafael Boasman on Wednesday.
There has been an outcry from the marine sector about the regulation and about its impact on the country’s homeporting plans and its fragile yachting industry.
Industry stakeholders are to meet with Border Protection Services and Police today, Thursday, to discuss the policy.
Representatives of the yachting sector met with Boasman on Wednesday afternoon about the details of the policy. Several changes are expected to be made by the Minister based on recommendations made by the representatives.
Boasman said in the Council of Ministers press briefing prior to the meeting that there was misunderstanding “in one or two cases” about what was on paper by immigration officers, but the situation was resolved. He said, “As far as I know, no one was sent away. It was a case of someone being told they could only stay for 48 hours.”
He stated that the approach to put the policy on paper was discussed with stakeholders including St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA), St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) and ships’ agents.
He maintained that it is not a new policy and that the regulations have been “a topic of conversation for some time. It was a free for all as to who comes in via our ports and how long they stay.”
The documenting of who comes in will also allow government to better bill agents for the fee of NAf. 45 for each visa-restricted yacht or cruise ship crewmembers admitted under the policy. The fee is levied on ships’ agents.
The stakeholders, including the Minister, agreed that changing policy in the middle of the high season was not the way to go.
A letter outlining the “temporary policy” that will last until the end of the maritime season was sent to industry stakeholders on Friday.
Instead, Boasman explained that the decision was made to outline the current policy and review it in the low season, because there are a lot of areas in the existing policy that can cause confusion and misunderstanding. The policy, he noted, actually provides an easement of rules for those without a visa.
Commenting on press coverage of the issue, the Minister said it is “a bit unfortunate that those who are making the comments and warning against the effects the policy will have on the visitors are the ones who are making it known throughout the region and throughout the world without the necessary accuracy.”
“While our economy is very important and I don’t think there is one minister in this Cabinet that would intentionally do something that would hurt the economy, we also have to understand that equally, if not more important, is the border control … the realities that are taking place in the world that we see on CNN, we should stop thinking that it can’t happen to us. We should get real; we should wake up,” said Boasman.
“It is very important for law enforcement to know who comes in via our ports and what they bring in via our port,” said the Minister.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten