Published On: Thu, May 31st, 2018

Knops: No massive influx of refugees in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

Knops_Kingdom_RelationsTHE HAGUE - Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao do not suffer from a large influx of refugees from Venezuelans. There are illegal immigrants on the islands, but that was true even before the start of the crisis in Venezuela. This was stated by the Undersecretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) in a debate with the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. Knops could not say how many illegal immigrants live on the islands; there are only estimates according to him. “Based on the information we have now, we cannot say that there is a huge increase.”

Knops bases himself on people who have been arrested without papers. According to him, in these numbers there is hardly any difference between before the start of the economic crisis in the South American country and now.

But in the numbers that the coast guard picks up at sea, a difference can be seen - probably because of the poignant situation in Venezuela. That was 88 in 2015, 122 in 2016 and 326 in last year. This year the counter now stands at 91 people, Knops said. “If they apply for asylum, they go into that procedure. This is how the rules are,” said Knops on questions from PVV MP Raymond de Roon, who argued that the migrants in boats would be forced to return 'on the high seas'.

The Prime Minister of Aruba, Evelyn Wever-Croes, stated earlier this month in an interview with the Dutch NRC that the attitude of the Netherlands to the refugee stream was 'indifferent and irritating'. According to her, there were 5000 Venezuelan refugees on her island. Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded that the Netherlands will help as soon as Aruba asks for it. Wever-Croes later said he had been quoted incorrectly.

Knops acknowledges that a massive influx of refugees is 'potentially disruptive'. “The islands are not equipped to accommodate large numbers of refugees.” But according to the Undersecretary, these are now 'fairly limited numbers'.

Neighboring country Colombia does have to deal with a large flow of refugees. It is estimated that there are 3 to 4 million Venezuelans. The Dutch government has already made 500,000 euros available for the asylum of refugees in the region. D66 and GroenLinks wanted to know if the Netherlands would do more to help Colombia. That is not the intention of Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs. “The Netherlands already accounts for a more than proportional share.”

Knops en Blok promised Parliament to honor requests for assistance from the islands - Aruba and Curaçao are separate countries in the kingdom. Curaçao asked and received support earlier. “If help is asked for, we also have to offer it,” said D66 Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma.

Venezuela, which is about 60 kilometers from Curaçao, is suffering from a major economic crisis. Blok typified the situation in the country as 'dramatic'. “While it could potentially be a hugely prosperous and happy country.” President Nicolas Maduro was re-elected at the May 20 elections. However, the result is not taken seriously by the international community. “A North Korean façade,” according to CDA MP Martijn van Helvert.

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