photo: Ralph Cantave

PHILIPSBURG – After citizens of both the Dutch and French part of St. Maarten protested again against the border closure, the French authorities decided to lift the closure.

Soualiga United, a movement with leaders from both the Dutch and French communities, organized the protest. Hundreds of protesters turned up this Wednesday and with success: at four in the afternoon all blockades and controls were lifted.

The French authorities closed the border to free movement of fear of corona contamination. A decision they took after Dutch Sint-Maarten opened its borders with the United States at the end of July. The control of the border meant that travel would only be allowed for work and health-related reasons and persons had to be in possession of an authorization form to cross the border.

The border would reopen on September 15, but that was postponed till October 1. Frustration grew among both populations. The breaking point was the harassment several students faced while trying to cross the border. It is common for residents to live on one side while attending school or working on the other. Several students were turned back despite arriving in uniforms or showing proof of their school papers.

‘People like to remain one’
The pressure mounted on social media and at the border as a result of those events. The blockade infringed on the centuries-long free movement and the established cultural and economic bond between the two sides of the island and its removal was met with cheers around the island. The protesters on Wednesday also included politicians from both sides.

“The people of this country, both sides, north and south, are one. And the indication today is that we would like it to remain one ”, emphasizes Rudolphe Samuel, Minister of Education.