Politicians IPKO continue to talk about Venezuelan migrants behind closed doors

WILLEMSTAD - Members of Parliament from Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands are holding their annual political consultations again. On the first they, the MPs discussed the number of undocumented people. Not only the ABC islands are struggling with thousands of Venezuelan migrants, also Sint Maarten.  


It is Monday, the opening day of the Interparliamentary Kingdom Consultation (IPKO). The four parliaments of the kingdom are together in Curaçao to talk to each other and to make agreements.  


As usual, the delegation leaders first give a speech about the situation in their country. “There are about 17,000 undocumented Venezuelans in Curaçao,” says Amerigo Thode of the MFK party.  


He is concerned about public order and safety on the island. “One advantage,” he says, “is that undocumented migrants can be sent back.” In April, the borders will reopen.  


GroenLinks MP Kouthar Bouchallikh has questions for Curaçao. Amnesty International has already written three critical reports "with fairly strong conclusions" about how the island treats Venezuelan refugees, she says. Her question: what will Curaçao do about the 'degrading' shelter?  


IPKO chairman Charetti Amerika-Francisca intervenes. She points out that the theme of migration will be discussed later. The live stream will then be turned off: the presentation of officials and the political discussion about this will take place behind closed doors.  


Thode wants to answer it publicly. “Because in a moment you will get another presentation about migration,” he says. “It is true that many Venezuelan migrants dock on Curaçao. They come as refugees, but they are economic refugees. They come for work.”  


Amnesty International  


Curaçao was recently reprimanded by Amnesty International – for the third time – for allegedly violating human rights in the reception of undocumented Venezuelans. How was the response during the closed meeting? And how do those reports influence the discussions?  


The Dutch delegation leader Paul Rosenmöller (GroenLinks) did not want to comment on this to the reporters of the Caribbean Network. “Because it's not about political views,” says Rosenmöller. “The parliamentarians during the IPKO exchange information with each other.”  


Reopening borders poses other challenges  


After the discussion, it has become clear to him that the problem is not simple; the consequences are different on each of the islands. Rosenmöller emphasizes that the bad situation in Venezuela itself must also be considered. “There is a lot of deprivation in that country and that is why many people are fleeing.”  


Curaçao Member of Parliament Giselle McWilliam of the MAN party also agrees. “In my input I indicated that we should stop looking away. In Curaçao we must register the people who are there and possibly give them temporary residence status. That is better for them, but also for us. Because then they can be insured, for example.” 


At the same time, McWilliam indicates that this is not the solution to the problem. “Many people look anxiously to the future. It's good that we talked about this at IPKO. But all countries must also prepare well for opening the borders.” 


“On the one hand, many people in Curaçao and Aruba are happy with that. Broken families can now come together again. At the same time, there is the question: how do we know what we are ingesting? Is it checked whether Venezuelans return after thirty days?” 


Impact on the labor market  


Another thing that the Aruban politicians have noticed: the number of divorces of Aruban couples on the island is increasing, due to the arrival of Venezuelan women. The number of migrants would also have an impact on the labor market in Aruba. In construction, many Arubans would have lost work to 'cheaper' migrants.  


Also Venezuelan refugees on Sint Maarten  


Not only the ABC islands have received a remarkable number of migrants from Venezuela in recent years. It also applies to Sint Maarten, which is about 900 kilometers away, their politicians say during IPKO 


Members of the Sint Maarten Parliament see that Venezuelan people are given refugee status via islands such as Guadeloupe and then travel to Saint Martin in France. There they also receive a living allowance, according to European rights.  


At the same time, politicians see that many Venezuelan refugees cross the border with Sint Maarten during the day to work on the Dutch part for about 20 dollars a day.  


Ukrainians also reach Sint Maarten  


The same trend can be seen on Sint Maarten when it comes to Ukrainian people who fled their country before the war. Ukrainians with refugee status in France also leave for the Caribbean Saint-Martin, to then work in entertainment venues in the Dutch part.