photo: Jenny Steel

PHILIPSBURG – The yellow, blue, red and green Unity Flag of St Martin island was held aloft by protestors marching against the controls, restrictions and closures at the French-Dutch border on Saturday morning. Around 100 protestors marched towards Dutch-side Cole Bay from Bellevue on the French side. They walked along RN7 to the control point located approximately 100 yards from the French-Dutch border, operated by a dozen French gendarmes.

In response to the decision to open Dutch St. Maarten to flights from the United States, the Préfète Délguée of French Saint Martin, Sylvie Feucher, announced that the Dutch-French border would be closed from midday July 31st. The controls and closures put in place were intended to slow the spread of the Coronavirus by banning American tourists from entering the French side of the island.

Report by Tim van Dijk and Jenny Steel

One of the organisers of the protest, Lenny Mussington, requested for the Préfète to uphold the terms from the 1648 Treaty of Concordia. This agreement between the Dutch and French Kingdoms divided the island but enabled freedom of movement between both sides.

Photo: Tim van Dijk

‘I don’t have a pass to go through that border and I go through every single day’
One ‘Grass-roots Saint Martiner’ and protester, who owns businesses on both the French and Dutch-side of the island was not able to get the paperwork needed to cross the border and is also concerned that the controls have little focus on controlling the spread of the virus.

No paperwork means no work

Download the audio here

She is not the only Saint Martiner unable to get the required documentation to cross the border. Accountant, Rosario Richardson applied for the paperwork when the border closure was announced. He says crossing is difficult without proof and he has a lot of discussion with police at the border control.

Gendarmes at border. Photo: Jenny Steel

‘I would like to come back home without feeling like some kind of criminal’
Charmaine Petit is a Dutch passport holder, married to a French Saint Martiner. She lives in the north of the island but makes frequent trips across the border to take her special needs child to school. She feels the border control is unacceptable.

Charmaine Petit says she feels like a ‘criminal’

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Drivers who wished to cross the border in either direction were delayed by up to an hour whilst the protestors marched. Those stuck in the tailback were left with few options to detour because containers are currently blocking the entire road at two alternative border crossings.