Minister of Justice Anna Richardson (front, center) surrounded by representatives of law enforcement agencies and justice personnel from St. Maarten and the Netherlands, who participated in the ‘Strengthening Border Control’ conference at Simpson Bay resort on Monday and Tuesday.
SIMPSON BAY—With a new Plan of Approach at hand for improvement of St. Maarten’s border security, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson on Monday officially opened the Start Conference “Strengthening Border Control”. This two-day conference was held at the Simpson Bay resort, and could count on participation of law enforcement agencies and judicial experts.
The Start Conference, Minister Richardson said, marked the official beginning of the implementation of the plan of approach for St. Maarten aimed at further bolstering the country’s border security. “The current plan of approach is the result of the political agreement reached with the Netherlands in 2020,” Richardson explained.
At the end of 2020, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten individually came to a political agreement with the Netherlands on a number of necessary reforms, for which the Netherlands will provide financial support. The countries agreed on the need for strengthening their border control. Agreements were also made on cooperation between local and Dutch border services.
The Netherlands will structurally make an amount of up to 30.5 million euros available for support by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, Customs Netherlands and the Caribbean Coast Guard in strengthening border control in the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom. With these resources, the Coast Guard will be able to be deployed 24/7.
In addition to the structural resources, the Netherlands also makes incidental funds available for investments in the equipment, personnel and facilities of the border services.
The aim of the protocol is to combat cross-border/transnationally organised (subversive) crime in the Kingdom. In 2020, it was decided that local and Dutch border services would jointly draw up an action plan for each country. These action plans are to be evaluated, renewed and redefined every three years.
According to the Kingdom government in The Hague, the measures resulting from the Action Plan are “important for a well-functioning rule of law, which is a precondition for economic development, contributes to sustainable public finances and monitors the legality of spending.”
The Progress Committee St. Maarten oversees the implementation of the Action Plan for strengthening border control. This Committee was set up in 2011 by General Measure of Kingdom Governance (AMvRB) with the task of reporting to the ministerial consultation in The Hague on the progress and implementation of action plans.
The Progress Committee consists of five persons, two of whom are St. Maarteners: former Lieutenant-Governor Franklyn Richards, member of the committee, and secretary Terrance Rey. The chairman, Nico Schoof from the Netherlands, and other two Dutch members, pay a working visit to St. Maarten several times a year to jointly – together with Richards - review the progress of Dutch funded projects within the Ministry of Justice.
On Monday, Minister Richardson emphasized the importance of increasing collaboration between the border agencies to address St. Maarten’s challenges at the border and expressed the hope that the Progress Committee’s knowledge and expertise will significantly contribute to a comprehensive assessment of the country’s border security challenges and opportunities.
Minister Richardson said that on the first day of the conference fruitful discussions were held with the border agencies, who gave a presentation on the current state of affairs and “the progress that was made since St. Maarten signed its first border protocol with the Netherlands back in 2018.”
The second day of the conference was filled with a series of site visits to several operations carried out by the border agencies. “The purpose of these visits was to directly gather firsthand information regarding the measures that have been implemented and those that are planned, to enhance border security,” Minister Richardson said. “The site visits culminated with a tour of the Airport Terminal Reconstruction project from which once completed, the border agencies will also operate in the future.”
Participating in the conference were professionals from St. Maarten and the Netherlands with diverse backgrounds and expertise in border control, immigration, law enforcement and other related fields. Minister Richardson on Monday welcomed members of Customs St. Maarten, Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBPS), St. Maarten Police force KPSM, as well as members from law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands which are Customs the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, along with representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.