Dutch State Secretary for Justice and Security Eric van der Burg closed off his visit to Saba late Wednesday afternoon. On the program were a series of meetings that mostly focused on matters relating to border control.
The state secretary had a meeting with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, the Immigration and Naturalization Department IND and the Social Affairs and Labor SWZ unit, but also with the Saba University School of Medicine to discuss matters related to immigration and labor market procedures. A meeting was also held with the Royal Dutch Marechaussee and the Customs Department to discuss border control, also in relation to the ferry service.
Immigration was an important aspect of Van der Burg’s visit. “More than half of the people living on Saba are not originally from here, so therefore when it comes to labor migration, it’s very important for Saba and the IND has to play its role in this,” he said in a short interview at the end of his visit, shortly before boarding the Makana Ferry to St. Eustatius.
There is room for improvement, said the State Secretary. “We talked about the Makana Ferry service. We have a pilot for two years. We can arrange to make some procedures better. And, we are discussing the procedures where it comes to labor migration, because there are a lot of regulations that are made in The Hague, but the situation on Saba is different than in the European part of the Kingdom. We can make some procedures more effective and efficient.”
That includes the procedure of work permits, which is currently a long process and experienced as cumbersome by employers and prospective new employees. The work permits procedure was one of the main issues during his visit, the State Secretary said. “If you can shorten the time, it is better for the island, better for the employees, better for the organizations where these persons will work.” Van der Burg said he was committed to help improve this.
The State Secretary was very enthusiastic about Saba. “It was my first time that I was here to meet with a lot of people and to see the island for myself. It is a beautiful island, not only all the nature I’m seeing around me, but also the way it is built, the special airport. I am impressed.”
Van der Burg said that he would be back, although there was no date set as yet. “Because it is important for me to not only visit the other five islands, but to also come to Saba. We will be planning a next visit.”