Published On: Mon, May 8th, 2017

Migration from the Caribbean and South America

Jacob Gelt Dekker“At the time of independence, in 1975, Dutch subjects living in the colony of Suriname were given the choice of Dutch or Surinamese citizenship. Amazingly, 220,000 out of a population of 450,000 left Suriname for the Netherlands – a level of migration that is staggering in size and scope. Many people didn't have much faith in the economic future of the country.

From the former Dutch Antilles, the ‘mass’ immigration started in 1985 when the big oil refineries on Curacao and Aruba closed down their operations. Today, many individuals from the Dutch-Speaking Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten immigrate to the Netherlands to find jobs, complete their education, and lead a better quality of life.

About 28.5 million Latin American and Caribbean people live outside the countries where they were born, 70 % of them in the United States, according to a new study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).”

People migrate to break the cycle of poverty, generational as well as situational poverty. Of all means to fight poverty, migration has proven to be the most effective.

Cultural heritage and language turn out to be of little consequence in the decision to pack up and leave. Language, held by many as the main reason for a suitable destination, has little impact. It was hilarious to attend a swearing-in ceremony for new US citizens by a Judge, whose spoken English was so bad that nobody understood her: her bailiff had to do the translation.

Cultural heritage once praised as the inalienable value of each individual, turns out to be transportable. After hundreds of years, Dutch immigrants in Pensylvania may still cling to Sinterklaas, herring and “skutse zeilen,” but they would never consider migrating back to Holland. Hindus in London built their temples, and many never made it back to India in their lifetime.

Escaping poverty and creating a better future for your children overrides all arguments faith and philosophical ideology.

Last year, we witnessed the migration of millions of Middle Easterners, supplemented by millions who were in the waiting rooms of refugee camps. In Africa. Recent parliamentary elections in the Netherlands produced a treasure trove of data and analysis. The anti-migration party, PVV, appears to have a staunch support group amongst elderly Surinamers and Antilleans, themselves once immigrants in the ’70-90. Their good luck in their new homeland, Holland, and escape from poverty and tyranny, has not turned them into selflessness leaders, concerned for the welfare of others, but rather self-centered opportunists who wish to exclude others from such good fortune.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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