Published On: Sat, May 19th, 2018

Premier Aruba: The Netherlands ‘too indifferent’ about refugee flow Venezuela

EvelynTHE HAGUE, ORANJESTAD - The Aruban Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes calls the Dutch attitude towards the refugee flow to the ABC islands 'too indifferent and irritating'. Wever-Croes says this in the run-up to the Venezuelan presidential elections that takes place on Sunday.

Venezuela is currently suffering from a humanitarian and political crisis. Aruba, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is less than 40 kilometers from the Venezuelan coast. The island has suffered an influx of refugees since the crisis in Venezuela. Currently there are already about 5,000 refugees who reached the island via plane or boats. The island fears that this number will increase after the elections.

Aruba does not have to count on help from the Netherlands, says Wever-Croes. 'The Netherlands does not want to help with that, there is a price tag for everything. But you cannot send those people back into hunger. We only receive help from the Ministry of Defense with logistics," she says.

Wever-Croes also criticizes the 'two faces' of the Netherlands in the relationship with Venezuela. On the one hand, EU policy with sanctions against the government of President Nicolás Maduro is supported by the Netherlands, on the other hand Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok was recently in Caracas and stood right next to a delegation from the Venezuelan government. Wever-Croes also says she has been invited, but did not want to participate in 'a show'.

Venezuela announced a unilateral economic and transport blockade against Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao early this year. According to the Venezuelan president, the islands would not do enough to counter smuggling of, among other things, drugs and weapons. In Caracas, Blok signed an agreement that puts an end to this blockade.

Last month, during a meeting between Blok and the prime ministers of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten, it was concluded that the Netherlands supports the expulsion policy of the three autonomous Caribbean islands. The departing Venezuelans are seen as economic migrants, not as political refugees who have to fear individual persecution.

For that reason, the majority does not meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention, according to Blok in April. That is why they have to 'go back' quickly, according to the minister. Expert criticism that sanctions against Venezuela are fueling the influx of refugees because they are worsening the conditions in the country, Blok says, "Not every kind of sanction leads to a larger outflow."

In Curaçao, where currently more than 6,000 Venezuelans reside, the population has already expressed a wish for a 'more humane' policy, which Wever-Croes of Aruba now seems to argue for. The Aruban government is busy with plans for a tent camp where there is room for about 500 Venezuelan refugees.

Venezuelans see Curaçao as a refuge. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring countries because of the rapidly growing poverty in their country. Inflation is estimated to be 13,000 percent this year, food is scarce or unaffordable.

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