Published On: Tue, Nov 14th, 2017

Homeless St. Maarteners in a bind in the Netherlands

HAARLEM – For months the municipality of Haarlem has refused to register homeless citizens from St. Maarten, but last Thursday it seemed that the city administration had changed its position, Natasja Gibbs reports on Caribisch Netwerk. Two single mothers with children received a proof of registration, but their joy did not last long. A spokesman for Haarlem’s mayor Jos Wienen said on Monday that the registration is a misunderstanding.

Sella and her 10-year old son and another mother with two children did not believe their ears when they were refused last Friday with their proof of registration at the UWV – the Dutch employee insurance agency. “They told us that we are not entitled to anything and that it was never the purpose for us to be registered,” Stella says.

Both mothers lived earlier for a long time in the Netherlands but they emigrated to St. Maarten for work. “We have a Dutch citizens service number and proof that we have de-registered from St. Maarten. I was born here but we are simply not allowed to build up our lives in our own country,” Stella says. She does not know what to do anymore.

“Due to a misunderstanding five people from St. Maarten without a fixed address have been registered in the BRP (the census registry),” says Heleen van Loenen, the spokeswoman for mayor Wienen. “This is an administrative registration and it does not provide the right to a house.”

Registering in the municipality of Haarlem is according to Van Loenen only possible for people who are able to support themselves. “Four others from St. Maarten have been registered earlier in Haarlem, but they had housing at friends or family. That is a different situation.”

Leandro Thomas, the attorney for the homeless St. Maarteners, thought that the registration of the two mothers had opened the door for registering the other homeless St. Maarteners in Haarlem as well. But that will not happen now. Thomas sees no other option that starting a legal procedure against the municipality.

Van Loenen says that the homeless St. Maarteners who traveled on an evacuation flight to the Netherlands  did this based on the wrong assumption. “They reported at Schiphol with their Dutch passport saying that they have no job and no house. They wanted to call on the emergency provisions in the Netherlands and they assumed that those provisions exist but that is incorrect.”

Last week the opposition parties SP and GreenLeft asked questions about the plight of the homeless St. Maarteners. They urged State secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) to present practical solutions.

Haarlem in the meantime falls back on consultation with the ministry of Home Affairs. “They are working on a national approach for this small group of travelers that came to the Netherlands immediately after the hurricane,” Van Loenen says. “The point of departure is that they have to return to St. Maarten, unless they are able to support themselves and have a fixed address.”