Migrating St. Maarteners need to be well prepared

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Henrietta Doran-York is encouraging the people not to despair and to keep it together. Meanwhile she and her Cabinet in The Hague are trying to assist St. Maarteners who have arrived and are left stranded in the Netherlands after the hurricanes as best as possible.

The Cabinet has been receiving many calls after Hurricane Irma from St. Maarteners with requests for assistance in various forms. Many persons found themselves stranded in the Netherlands or other parts of Europe, without being able to get home due to the damaged airport, which is still out of order.
Although the staff of the Cabinet were most willing to assist persons coming to the Netherlands following the hurricanes by pointing them in the right direction or referring them to the correct authorities, which in this case are the Dutch municipalities, it was assumed by most of these persons that the Cabinet is there to have them registered at a municipality, provide housing and pocket money. “Regrettably this is not possible,” said Doran-York.
At least 100 St. Maarteners, including many children, have reported in the Netherlands since the evacuation flights started shortly after Hurricane Irma. Most came without a plan and were not properly prepared. Some landed in the Netherlands without the proper documents needed to register at a municipality; some came without money or an address to stay. The staff of the Cabinet had and still has their hands full dealing with these cases.
Many contacted the Cabinet shortly after their arrival. “They tell us, we are here, we lost our home and we need assistance,” said Doran-York, explaining that in some cases it concerns entire families, including young children. “Moving to the Netherlands has a lot of impact on these children. It is a very different country, there is a language and culture barrier. These children are already traumatised by the hurricane and its impact on their daily lives, so please do it right.”
Most of these persons came on evacuation flights via Curaçao. “They come without a plan. We are saying no matter how well your intentions, please don’t make this journey without a plan. Unlike Aruba and Curaçao where people have received St. Maarteners with open arms for temporary shelter, the Netherlands doesn’t seem too enthusiastic to assist our people if they come here to seek shelter, which in my opinion is a real pity.”
Doran-York advised people to stay in St. Maarten if that is possible, or to consider Aruba and Curaçao as a back-up option. “It is better to stay in St. Maarten where help is always closer by and people have their network. There is always a neighbour, a family member or friend that can help.”
She said that if there is no other option than the Netherlands, then people should at least come prepared. “Make sure that you carry all your papers, secure a place to stay at family or friends and have sufficient means to sustain yourself financially.”
Dutch caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk announced last week in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament that about 25 persons had reported at municipalities requesting a house. However, this number now seems to be much higher. Some of the families have been staying at friends and families, but there are also a number staying at shelters.
The Minister Plenipotentiary encouraged the people in St. Maarten not to despair, but to hold it together, in a united fashion, to bring their country back up to par. “People lost their homes, businesses, pets and jobs, and they are understandably finding it very hard to cope with such losses. But you have to know that even though things may seem bleak at this moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as long as together we set our hearts and minds to unite and put our country above self,” she said.
To the elected officials on both sides of the island, Doran-York said that there was “no time for grandstanding and politicking at this time, while the people’s hearts are burdened and they are heavily dependent on you doing things correct.” Her message to the politicians: “Unite and work together for the people that put you there.”
Doran-York said she had her hands full in The Hague with meetings with authorities and organisations in the Netherlands since the passing of Hurricane Irma such as Minister Plasterk, Programme-Director Reconstruction of the Windward Islands Hans Leijtens, Aruba Governor Alfonso Boekhoudt and Ambassador Marion Kappeyne van de Coppello who heads the reconstruction task force of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paul Martens of the St. Maarten Red Cross and Rolando Brison of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.
Doran-York attended an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers about St. Maarten and the aftermath of the hurricane, and later the regular Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting where St. Maarten was discussed at length.
The Minister Plenipotentiary also attended the National Collection Drive of the Red Cross in Hilversum on September 15, where she spoke with several representatives of the Red Cross, gaining first-hand insight into their plans to assist St. Maarten. While there, she had the opportunity to participate in accepting phone calls from persons willing to contribute towards the rebuilding of St. Maarten. Also supporting this event were members of the Dutch Kingdom Baseball including St. Maarten’s own Dudley Leonora, who along with his teammate Diegomar Markwell presented the Minister with a jersey of their team.
The Cabinet organised two events for St. Maarteners after the hurricane: a solidarity gathering on September 13 and a prayer and intercessional service last Wednesday. Both events, held at the Cabinet in The Hague, were well-attended. Inspirational words were spoken and positivity shared. The staff at the Cabinet facilitated a chat group for St. Maarteners in the Netherlands which was active from before, during and after Hurricane Irma where persons were kept abreast of the latest developments.
Doran-York has been sharing the positive message in the Netherlands. “I am very optimistic and foresee St. Maarten being rebuilt much quicker than assumed by many, with tourists coming back soon. It is important that everyone, Government and the people, stay positive, stay strong, and unite with one goal in mind which is to rebuild St. Maarten.” She thanked all who have been assisting St. Maarten.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/69703-migrating-st-maarteners-need-to-be-well-prepared