Published On: Wed, Jul 11th, 2018

Dutch Senate discusses Venezuela with Minister and Undersecretary

Stef-Blok-Raymond-Knops-refugee-policy-VenezuelaTHE HAGUE - The crisis in Venezuela and the illegal migration to Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire was the topic of a meeting that the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament had with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Tuesday.

The Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations had called for a meeting with Blok and Knops because of severe concerns about the grave situation in Venezuela and the effects that this has on the three islands located nearby the South American country.

The Senators were especially keen to hear about the illegal immigration, the refugees that have been coming to mainly Aruba and Curaçao and the prospect that their numbers will increase as the situation in Venezuela is deteriorating.

“What is our legal and humanitarian position?” asked Senator Frits Lintmeijer of the green left party GroenLinks. Senator Thom de Graaf of the Democratic Party D66 requested a recent estimate of the refugee influx and the capacity of the shelters if the number of refugees were to grow. “What concrete preparations are taking place?”

Senator Henk ten Hoeve of the Independent Senate Party OSF wanted to know who carried the responsibility

if a large refugee issue were to develop. “Is that a responsibility of the countries or of the Kingdom?” He said he got the impression that Aruba and Curaçao were looking for assistance from the Kingdom/the Netherlands in dealing with this issue.

Senator Frank van Kappen of the liberal democratic VVD party, a former Commander of Dutch Defence in the Caribbean, remarked that the safety of the islands is a responsibility of the Kingdom. He pointed out that Dutch Defence plays a major role in securing safety in the region. He made a case to give more content to Defence’s presence as a deterrent in case Venezuela might become inclined to take military action. “What are we doing to increase the threshold function?”

Senator Meta Meijer of the Socialist Party (SP) noted there were indications that security on the islands was being adversely affected by the large number of illegal immigrants. She mentioned that lately there had been an increase in armed robberies in Bonaire, in which firearms were used. “It is possible that this group is resorting to crime in search of a means of living.”

Senator Hans-Martin Don (SP) observed that after speaking with several hoteliers in Aruba he concluded that the illegal immigrants from Venezuela were tolerated as cheap labour if there was sufficient work in the tourism sector, now that American visitors were going to Aruba in larger numbers due to the state of St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma.

Minister Blok and State Secretary Knops explained that there had been no substantial increase in refugees to the islands since the presidential elections in Venezuela in May this year, despite the further deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation.

“We initially had concerns that the situation could escalate after the presidential elections with a large migration surge as a result. That scenario didn’t materialise despite the horrendous situation and a completely bankrupt economy,” said Blok, who spoke of “awful poverty” and many people fleeing because of “hunger and deprivation.”

There are no indications for military intervention from the side of Venezuela in the direction of the islands, Blok and Knops said. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” said Blok, who confirmed that Dutch Defence had a threshold function through its presence in Curaçao and Aruba. The minister could not go into detail about possible measures for reasons of national security.

Knops said the refugee figures were stable, but he noted there were no exact figures for the number of illegal immigrants currently staying on the islands. He said different scenarios were being considered. “There are many reasons to flee Venezuela.”

The state secretary reiterated that the provisions for refugees, including the asylum procedures, were an internal, autonomous authority of the countries Aruba and Curaçao. However, the Netherlands has offered assistance, and expertise is available if the islands request such. Intervention by the Kingdom Government is only a last resort.

Photo: The Senators were especially keen to hear about the illegal immigration, the refugees that have been coming to mainly Aruba and Curaçao and the prospect that their numbers will increase as the situation in Venezuela is deteriorating.

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