Clear and present

A recent ruling in Curaçao that led to the release of all Venezuelan migrants locked up at “Sentro di Detenshon i Korekshon Kòrsou” (SDKK) should not go unnoticed in Philipsburg. They had been moved from the deportee barracks on the penitentiary grounds to an isolated block inside the main complex.
The judge found that while conditions there had in principle met those for immigration custody, the group’s regime was even more restrictive than that of regular, penal prisoners. Especially those who request protection as refugees must be allowed to await the result under humane circumstances and not treated the same as – or worse than –inmates serving a criminal sentence.
In St. Maarten too several undocumented foreigners have been freed due to lack of adequate holding capacity especially for any extended periods of time. The Simpson Bay police station was supposed to be used for such, but it’s not clear to what extent this proved feasible.
The release of these persons is sometimes combined with keeping passports and requiring regular reporting, which seems like a practical alternative but fails to really solve the problem. They are not allowed to work and thus have no legal way to take care of themselves, often ending up in illegal employment at the risk of more trouble with authorities.
That the borders of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao with neighbouring Venezuela remain closed adds to complications experienced in repatriating migrants from the crisis-hit South American nation. Airlift was also an issue, although flights via Colombia and Panama offer possible options.
The Dutch Caribbean has no local asylum procedures, while determining whether it regards political rather than economic refugees is usually difficult at best. Under the circumstances, proper detention facilities for migrants appears to be a clear and present necessity.

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