Aruba PM denies blasting Dutch about refugee-crisis

Evelyn Wever-Croes

ARUBA–Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes is not happy with a story in which she called the Netherlands’ attitude towards the refugee flow from neighbouring Venezuela to the ABC islands “too indifferent and annoying,” nor the fact that it was copied by other media without consulting her. She stated this in a letter to the NRC newspaper, after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reacted with surprise that his government is willing to help if asked.

Wever-Croes now claims her words were twisted. “I said the Netherlands not wanting to assist with the refugee problem is understandable on the one hand, but still not acceptable and I still stand behind that.”

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   She also denied saying she was irritated by the Hague’s attitude. “I am not easily annoyed,” the prime minister added.

   Venezuela, where presidential elections were held on Sunday, is currently suffering from a humanitarian and political crisis and Aruba, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is less than 40 kilometres from the South American country’s coast. The island has been faced with an influx of migrants.

Currently, there are already an estimated 5,000 who reached Aruba by plane or boat. The island fears that this number will increase after the elections.

   Aruba does not have to count on help from the Netherlands, Wever-Croes was quoted as saying. “The Netherlands does not want to help with that, there is a price tag for everything. But you cannot send those people back into hunger. We only receive help from the Ministry of Defence with logistics.”

Wever-Croes supposedly also criticised the “two faces” of the Netherlands in the relationship with Venezuela. On the one hand, European Union (EU) sanctions against the government of President Nicolás Maduro are supported, but on the other hand Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok was recently in Caracas and stood right next to a delegation of the Venezuelan government. Wever-Croes reportedly said she too had been invited but did not want to “participate in a show.”

Earlier this year, Venezuela announced a unilateral economic and transport blockade against Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (also known as the ABC islands). According to Maduro, the islands were not doing enough to counter smuggling of, among other things, drugs and weapons from the mainland.

In Caracas, Blok signed an agreement that put an end to the border closure.

Last month, during a meeting between Blok and the prime ministers of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten, it was concluded that the Netherlands supports the admittance and expulsion policy of the three autonomous Dutch Caribbean countries. Venezuelans are viewed as economic migrants, rather than political refugees who must fear individual persecution.

For that reason, the majority does not meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention, according to Blok in April. That is why they “need to go back quickly,” according to the minister.

Experts observe that sanctions against Venezuela are fuelling the exodus because they are worsening the conditions in the country, but in the opinion of Blok “not every kind of sanction leads to a larger outflow.”

In Curaçao, where currently more than 6,000 Venezuelans reside, the population has already expressed a wish for a “more humane’ policy,” which Wever-Croes of Aruba now seems to argue for. The Aruban government is busy with plans for a tent camp where there is room for about 500 Venezuelan refugees.

Venezuelans see Curaçao as one of their escape routes. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries because of the rapidly growing poverty in their oil-rich nation. Inflation is estimated to be 13,000 per cent this year, so food is scarce or unaffordable.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/76802-aruba-pm-denies-blasting-dutch-about-refugee-crisis

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