On Monday May 21, 2023, Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson officially opened the two-day Start Conference “Strengthening Border Control” which was held in the conference room of the Simpson Bay Resort. The Start Conference marked the official beginning of the implementation of the plan of approach for Sint Maarten aimed at further bolstering the country’s border security.
The current plan of approach is the result of the political agreement reached between Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, individually with the Netherlands in 2020, which includes long-term financial assistance to the Caribbean countries for measures to be taken to strengthen their border security. In addition to making structural funds available to the countries for support by the Customs the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, the Netherlands will also make incidental resources available for investments in equipment, personnel and facilities of the border agencies.
In her opening remarks to the attendees of the conference Minister Richardson extended a warm welcome to the Progress Committee that has been assigned to monitor the implementation of the plan of approach. The Progress Committee brings together individuals from Sint Maarten and the Netherlands with diverse backgrounds and expertise in border control, immigration, law enforcement and other related fields. The Committee consist of members from law enforcement agencies on Sint Maarten which are Customs, Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBPS), the Police Force of Sint Maarten 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.
In addressing the Committee, Minister Richardson emphasized the importance of increasing collaboration between the border agencies to address Sint 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.
During the first day of the conference the Committee engaged in fruitful discussions with the border agencies, who gave a presentation on the current state of affairs and the progress that was made since Sint Maarten signed its first border protocol with the Netherlands back in 2018. On the second day of the conference the Committee embarked on 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. 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.