Published On: Fri, Sep 14th, 2018

The Netherlands looks away, and the Venezuelan refugee is the victim

Coast Guard_Venezuelans2THE HAGUE, WILLEMSTAD - People in need are the victims of a political conflict between the Netherlands and Curaçao, according to Irene Broekhuijse, assistant professor at VU University Amsterdam. The Netherlands cannot ignore the responsibility for Venezuelan refugees.

Last year, people on St. Maarten suffered the political disagreement about granting aid after a hurricane had devastated the island. Now refugees in Curaçao are in danger of becoming the victims of bad understandings within the kingdom. Twice it concerns people who have lost everything and are trying to survive.

The Netherlands, by far the largest kingdom partner in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, believes that the sheltering of Venezuelan refugees is a matter for the Curaçao government. The Curaçao minister of justice, however, indicates that the small Curaçao can no longer handle the high number of refugees: "That is not possible for any country, but that is the situation in which Curaçao finds itself".

A lot has already been said about the legal division of responsibilities and powers within the kingdom between the Netherlands and the Caribbean parts of it, including Curaçao, but the observation that the existing legal framework accords great autonomy to the Caribbean countries knows its limits. In this case, Curaçao clearly states that it cannot handle the influx of refugees independently. What does this situation mean for the responsibility of the Netherlands?

Dutch responsibility does indeed exist, also in a legal sense. Suppose, for example, that a Venezuelan refugee would ultimately present his case to the European Court of Human Rights. If the matter would end up there, what could be, is not Curaçao, but the Kingdom of the Netherlands the accused party.

Look away

In that context, the Netherlands, as the largest kingdom partner, cannot escape its responsibility to comply fully with the European Convention on Human Rights throughout the entire kingdom, even though it has been agreed internally that Curaçao will assume responsibility for its own issues in principle.


At that moment there is a responsibility for the Netherlands to help Curaçao to protect the human rights of the refugees. By subsequently looking away, the Netherlands violates its human rights treaty obligations and the Venezuelan refugees are the victims.

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