Sunday , March 26 2023

Immigrants on Bonaire fear for their future

Caribisch Netwerk reports today that many Latin American immigrants in Bonaire fear for their jobs. When they need to renew their work permit, priority will be given to locals. From February 1, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) will strictly apply the law that calls for a labor market survey.

“This is causing tremendous damage and suffering to the immigrants that work here legally . There is no job stability, “said the Peruvian Luis Rodriguez Gamarro.

Rodriguez Gamarro is not in trouble himself. He works legally as a carpenter. But he knows many Latinos that live on Bonaire and who now fear for their jobs. They come from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Dominican Republic and Haiti. A large number is working in construction, catering and services. They earn between 4 to 7 dollars an hour.

Rodriguez Gamarro said: “There are legal immigrants who let their family come over. The children go to school here. They participate in the community and pay their taxes. If they do not pass the labor market survey, they will lose their work permit and, consequently, they must give up everything. Without a work permit and they will be without work. Then they will be illegal and must leave the island. ”

On September 1, the Ministry of Social Affairs started the labor market survey when someone applies for a renewal of a so-called work permit (TWV). In case the vacancy is filled by an immigrant this must be reported to determine if an appropriate local (unemployed) worker can do the job. This is laid down in the Aliens Employment Act BES. Without this work permit for immigrants – even though they have a residence permit – they will not be allowed to work. Until August 31, this labor market survey was not enforced.

“This caused a lot of unrest among employers and foreign workers. Because they were not adequately prepared, it was decided to not perform any labor market test before January 31, 2015”, writes the Ministry of Social Affairs and the public entity Bonaire (OLB) in a joint statement. This  unrest is real. Lawyer Michael Bijkerk, who is also the political leader of the Partido Pro Hustisia & Union, supports the immigrants and is leading a protest petition.

According to Bijkerk, this is a new policy because this law has not been applied for more than a decade. “It is a measure that is not well thought through. There are too many snags. Of course, the local workers should get priority over foreign workers. But those who are here, have become part of our community and should be treated correctly. ”

Bijkerk calls for a stop of the influx of immigrants until the unemployment issue is resolved. It is estimated that Bonaire has between three to four thousand immigrants. Over six hundred are affected by the measure.

Blijkerk and Gamarro (Photo Belkin Osessis)
Blijkerk and Gamarro
(Photo Belkis Osepa)

“Employers too are put in a difficult situation”, says Colombian Arnaldo Castellanos. He owns an electricity company and employs Latinos. “This will cause a lot of suffering to the employee and the employer. If I have an immigrant who has been working with me for four years and I would have to replace him by someone else, I will have to retrain this person from scratch again. “Castellanos is also of the opinion that no new immigrants should be admitted.

On February 1 the policy of tolerance will come to an end and the labor market survey will be strictly enforced. The immigrants, employers and Bijkerk intend to continue with their petition.

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