PHILIPSBURG--Requests for a “proof of return” to St. Maarten from holders of temporary residence permits who wish to travel abroad are not handled in a timely manner due to “a backlog that is quite high,” said Minister of Justice Anna Richardson in Parliament on Monday. “I will tackle the matter,” she said.
Richardson reacted to the article “Justice Minister ignores court order,
bereaved woman remains abroad”, which appeared on the front page of the Monday edition of The Daily Herald. A 49-year old single Dominicana woman who has been legally residing on the island since 2016 is denied re-entry after she travelled to the Dominican Republic to attend her mother's funeral in May this year.
Although the woman is “van rechtswege toegelaten” [a permanent resident – Ed.] on St. Maarten, she is not allowed to return to the island. Her third request for an extension of her residence permit was denied in September last year. The woman lodged an objection against the negative decision of the Minister of Justice on October 18, 2021, and was still awaiting the handling of that objection seven months later, at the time of her mother's death.
“The article speaks of someone who is extremely upset with this minister with regard to not receiving a timely response,” Richardson said in her closing remarks in Parliament, ending the meeting requested by Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams to discuss residence and work permit policies with the minister of justice and Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Lab or VSA Omar Ottley.
Richardson said there is no backlog in response letters to requests from persons who petition to remain on the island while their documents are being processed. “Those requests come directly to my cabinet and I can confirm to you that we are up to date with providing those responses,” Richardson said. “About a year ago we were severely backlogged with those, but definitely we have a tracking that I can confirm we are up to date.”
With regard to the case of the Dominicana woman, and similar cases, she said: “Those responses are provided by the Appeals Committee and presented to the minister to be able to respond. The person who is responsible for that is Mr. Amador Muller, and he extended an apology to me as minister today for not providing me with the response that I should have sent.
“I am not happy about that, and it requires me to be able to take some steps to be able to circumvent these things from happening again and I will do so.
“Obviously the backlog within our Appeals Committee is quite high, and for this reason it is creating a situation where persons are not receiving their answers in a timely manner.”
Before leaving the island in May to attend her mother’s funeral, the Dominicana woman had authorised Rosendo Agata as her legal representative in St. Maarten. On July 29, 2022, the court in Philipsburg ruled in favour of the woman requesting a “proof of return” and ordered Minister of Justice Anna Richardson to decide on the request within six weeks, no later than September 9, 2022.
Richardson failed to follow the court order. Governor Ajamu Baly, in his capacity as head of the Government of St. Maarten, has been requested to intervene. This request was forwarded by the governor’s cabinet to Richardson on October 18 for further processing. A response from the Minister of Justice is being awaited.