Position paper on Bosman-law: Government calls plan unjustified and racist

POSTED: 02/12/14 10:45 AM

St. Maarten – An admission and residence regulation for Caribbean Dutch citizens is by definition unjustified and the distinction VVD-MP André Bosman makes in his draft initiative law is de facto racist, the Government of St. Maarten writes in a position paper that was published on Tuesday.

Bosman wants to limit the free stay of citizens from St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao in the Netherlands to 6 months. After that, they would need a residence permit. Such permits are granted to citizens that are able to provide for themselves, or that are a family member of a Dutch citizen that meets this requirement.

Bosman wants the right to deny a residence permit to Caribbean Dutch citizens that have been deported before, to those that form “a serious and actual threat to the public order,” to those who have provided incorrect information or who have withheld information about themselves and to those whose main place of residence is outside of the Netherlands.

Without a residence permit Caribbean Dutch citizens would no longer qualify for registration at the municipal census office; they would also not be able to obtain a housing permit and be excluded from applying for social benefits.

The government states in its position paper that international treaties make the legal maneuvering space for imposing a residence regulation on Caribbean Dutch citizens extremely small. The paper refers to the European human rights treaty, the international treaty on citizens’ rights and political rights and the international treaty on the ban of racial discrimination.

According to an advice from the Dutch Council of State there have to be weighty reason for such a measure. In the opinion of St. Maarten’s government, those reasons do not exist and the reasons Bosman provides do not meet this criterion either.

“There is no justification for the removal of criminals that stem from the Caribbean countries in the Kingdom,” the position paper states. “Other Dutch citizens that commit crimes in the Netherlands are not deported but prosecuted.”

The government furthermore contests the data Bosman uses to support his position. With a reference to the annual Report Integration 2012, Bosman notes that of all non-western immigrants, Antilleans have the highest percentage of criminal suspects, namely 5.9 percent. That may be so, but the absolute numbers tell a different story. The report mentions 6,840 Antillean suspects (6 percent of 114,000), 18,500 Moroccans (5 percent of 383,000), and 140,000 natives (1 percent of 14 million).

“The proposal is not effective because it is possible to stay for half a year in the Netherlands as a tourist. During that period, one could commit all kinds of crimes. Furthermore, the question remains whether people that have criminal intentions, will register at the census office after half a year,” the position paper states.

Bosman also wants to prevent “disproportionate use of social benefits by people that have contributed nothing to the buildup of the common facilities of prosperity in the Netherlands.”

Wrong, the position paper points out. “This is not a serious problem. Based on the data Bosman has used, it is about 140 applications for social benefits in 2011, while the total number of these payments is around 450,000.”

It is also a misperception that Caribbean Dutch citizens did not contribute to the prosperity in the country. “Dutch prosperity has been created over the centuries and the former colonies in the West have contributed to it.”

The position report refers to the salt harvesting in St. Maarten and to slavery. Bosman does not acknowledge that many Caribbean Dutch citizens who want to settle down in the Netherlands, previously studies there, worked and paid taxes. “Furthermore, the islands invest an enormous amount of money in educating their youth. The best of them end up in the Netherlands where they often make a lasting contribution to the Dutch society. The expenditures the islands make are an indirect contribution to the social system in the Netherlands.”

The government also dismissed Bosman’s argument that his initiative-law follows the demands from the European guideline for free travel and residence and that it is also in line with the existing admission regulations in the Caribbean countries. The relationship between European countries and that between the Netherlands and the Caribbean countries in the kingdom are not comparable, the position paper points out. “Even if all Caribbean Dutch citizens would decide to establish themselves in the Netherlands the impact on a population of 17 million would be negligible. Based on this an admission and residence regulation for Caribbean Dutch citizen in the Netherlands is per definition unjustified in the opinion of the government of St. Maarten.”

The European rules are designed to prevent that a member state is overrun by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from other member states. “That was exactly the reason why the Netherlands at the time defended the admission measures of the Netherlands Antilles for European Dutch citizens,” the position paper points out.

While a European citizen who wants to settle down in the Netherlands does not need a permit for admission to qualify for social benefits or a housing permit. “A St. Maartener with the Dutch nationality who is born and raised on the Dutch side and who wants to settle down in the Netherlands does need a permit based on the initiative law. This is however not the case for a St. Maartener from the French side with a French passport.”

Lastly, the government refutes Bosman’s argument that his initiative law has nothing to do with racial discrimination. However, the treaty for the ban of all forms of racial discrimination speaks in article 1 about “origin” and “national or ethnic descent.” The populations of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten consist predominantly of Afro-Caribbean Dutch citizens, the position paper concludes. “Therefore the distinction is de facto racist.”

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