The revelation by Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee in Parliament that 3,000 of the 12,000 workers insured via Social and Health insurances SZV were undocumented last year (see Friday paper) led to quite a few comments. Many wondered whether this does not condone or even promote illegal employment and immigration.
On today’s opinion pages questions are rightfully asked regarding these people’s children on the island whose residency status has not been regulated. They must nevertheless go to school under the compulsory education law.
There indeed seems to be some contradiction. It is forbidden to hire foreigners without work permits, yet it’s alright to put them in the collective insurance with their employer paying part of the premium.
However, one should keep in mind that the alternative is having a lot of persons who “de facto” live and work on the Dutch side as well as their families walk around without any medical coverage at all. The consequences of such have already been felt over the years by the hospital and doctors that obviously won’t refuse treatment to people who need it.
The same thing goes for education. If the youngsters involved are not allowed to attend classes they are much more likely to end up on the street, with a possible rise in delinquency and crime as the result.
In both cases the current situation is far from ideal, but based on day-to-day reality in St. Maarten, where having at least the social premiums and taxes of undocumented workers paid so they don’t become a burden to society simply makes sense. It’s about choosing the lesser of two evils.