Emotions flare over Venezuelan refugees

PHILIPSBURG, WILLEMSTAD - Emotions flared high during discussions on the state of affairs pertaining to the situation in Venezuela during the first day of the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultations IPKO on Tuesday at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina.

According to the parliamentary delegations of Curaçao and Aruba, the problem with refugees from neighbouring Venezuela is something that has to be dealt with at the Kingdom level.

The countries in the Kingdom may continue arguing about this and the Netherlands can say that it is up to each island how to deal with this problem, but in the end, the smaller countries in the Kingdom cannot deal with this problem alone, it was stated. The lack of facilities and funds are the major reasons mentioned by the delegations.

Chairman of the Curaçao delegation William Millerson said that during the past years several thousand of migrants from Venezuela have come to Curaçao and Aruba to seek a better life.

He said the political discussions about the offering of primarily financial assistance go back and forth. He said there seems to be little understanding in the European part of the Kingdom for the “daily reality” the influx of migrants creates in Curaçao and Aruba, and also in Bonaire.

“These problems exist in health care, education, unemployment, crime, prostitution, et cetera. Due to the small scale of the communities this migratory flow has a very negative effect. We ask for more understanding and insight from our partners in the European part of the Kingdom,” Millerson stated

Member of the Curaçao Parliament Giselle McWilliam said each country interprets this issue in their own way. “The Netherlands keeps insisting it is a local problem and that they would not interfere, but according to Article 36 of the Kingdom Charter, in uncontrollable cases, the one involved must receive assistance. In this case, the islands must receive help from the Netherlands,” she said.

The problem, according to McWilliam, is that Curaçao is not technically and financially able to carry this heavy burden which keeps growing every day.

Member of the Dutch Parliament (MP) for conservative VVD party André Bosman said the problem already exists for two years. “Because the islands do not have their legislation in order it is suddenly becoming a sensitive issue. However, it is the responsibility of Curaçao and Aruba. Assistance is possible but then you’re giving responsibility away and if you need money you should come with a plan,” he said.

Ronald van Raak of Socialist Party (SP) said the problem with Venezuelan refugees is the responsibility of Aruba and Curaçao, and the responsibility of the Netherlands, where Bonaire is concerned.

The Netherlands had shown its solidarity with St. Maarten in making US $600 million available for St. Maarten in the aftermath of Irma, he said. “But now I hear that I’m a bad person who does not want to listen, that I do not want to help and that the Netherlands is not right.”

Van Raak said he was willing to “stick his neck out” in the Netherlands to plead the islands’ case in the Dutch Parliament, “but I do not want to hear when I come here that the Netherlands is being blamed for own failures,” Van Raak said.

Nevin Özütok of green-left GroenLinks party said she was surprised that this issue led to such a debate. “It concerns human rights and people we must help. It would be good if we as IPKO could make a plea with our governments to come up with a solution, as we’re all responsible for human rights and the protection thereof.

Curaçao and Aruba received support from the St. Maarten delegation. This island has not been burdened as much by an influx of Venezuelan refugees as Curaçao and Aruba have, but Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs said approximately 1,500 Venezuelan nationals have travelled via the French islands Martinique and Guadeloupe to French St. Martin, and from there into Dutch St. Maarten.

Jacobs said she expects an “open hand” from the Dutch government, just as St. Maarten received directly after the island was hit by the 2017 hurricanes. She said aid should not be coming with “very strangulation conditions.”

If the attitude as presented by MP Bosman were to be shared widely in the Netherlands, Jacobs said she would consider tabling the issue of reparations.


The meeting was adjourned at 5:00pm, with IPKO chairperson Sarah Wescot-Williams calling a closed-door meeting of the IPKO Presidium. The discussions on the Venezuela issue will continued today, Wednesday, at 10:00am.

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