(From left to right) Senior Policy Advisor of Ministry of Justice Erling Hoeve, Head of Immigration Jocelyn Levenstone, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson and attorney Gerald de Jong
PHILIPSBURG--More than five years after it was deemed indispensable for Country St. Maarten, the Ministry of Justice has drafted legislation for the Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR).
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson speaks of “a significant step towards enhancing border monitoring and management”.
For security reasons, the United States, most European Union member states, CARICOM-members and other countries require airlines to provide details about their passengers before they travel. This is known as Advance Passenger Information (API).
Information is taken either at the time of booking or by an automated passport reader during check-in. In most cases, passengers may not be allowed to travel if they do not provide their API in the time required.
St. Maarten has not yet implemented the API system. Draft legislation was presented to Minister of Justice Anna Richardson and Director of Immigration Jocelyn Levenstone on Friday, October 27. “This legislative package is a crucial component of the Automated Border Control (ABC) project, aimed at facilitating a safe and responsible approach to ensure the seamless flow of passengers,” Minister Richardson said.
On November 16, 2016, Captain Willem Mudde of the Royal Marechaussee presented the supporting sensor system API to St. Maarten Police Force KPSM, the Security Service of St. Maarten (VDSM), Port St. Maarten and the Royal Marechaussee in St. Maarten. “The aim is to involve the customs in this and hopefully in the near future to ensure the implementation at the harbour,” police management said in 2016.
Captain Mudde showed the benefit of API in combating crime and protecting people who are travelling from becoming victims. “He also showed how this organisation could be embedded,” stated police leadership, stressing that KPSM had been seeking to establish an automated system for analysing passenger information, and to implement this in cooperation with the airport and port.
Recently, the Ministry of Justice launched the Automated Border Control (ABC) project. “The project’s primary focus is on processing biometric data, which is being integrated during the Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project at Princess Juliana International Airport,” Minister Richardson said. “The implementation is carried out in collaboration with Vision Box, and it necessitated the reintroduction of E-gates and an improved passenger border processing system.”
Richardson said that since she took office as minister of justice, on March 28, 2020, she made the implementation of API a top priority. She emphasised the importance of this legislation, stating: "I consider this legislation of high importance in my quest to ensure we strengthen our borders to know who travels to, from, and through St. Maarten. As we work with universal security platforms like Interpol, it is imperative to have our border management at state-of-the-art levels. I prioritized this legislation and requested that it be finalized. The assignment was given to Erling Hoeve and Tiffany Glascow of the Justice Ministry, who dedicated much time and effort, which was thereafter vetted by De Jonge Legal Services."
The legislation will now undergo the legislative review process, with Judicial Affairs having already completed their review, Minister Richardson said. “Subsequently, it will be submitted for approval by the Council of Ministers before proceeding to the Council of Advice (CoA). After incorporating any remarks from the CoA, the draft legislation will be presented to the Parliament of St. Maarten for review and discussion. Minister Richardson anticipates that certain amendments may arise during this process, reflecting the collaborative and deliberative nature of the legislative journey.”
St. Maarten is expected to see the introduction of the APIS and PNR legislation at some point in 2024.