Ombudsman seeks clarity on case of St. Maarten evacuees

THE HAGUE–National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen wants answers from Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren about the case of the evacuated St. Maarteners who are refused registration at one or more municipalities. “A Dutch citizen must, at all times, be able to register, regardless of their housing or living situation.”

The Ombudsman responded on Monday after having taken note of various media reports about a group of St. Maarteners who were evacuated after Hurricane Irma and who have been refused entry in the civil registry in Haarlem, and reportedly also in Leiden. One of the St. Maarteners has filed a complaint at the National Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman sent a letter to the Minister on Monday in which he pointed out the rights of this group of Dutch citizens. Van Zutphen posed three questions to which he expects an answer in three weeks, after which he said he would decide whether to further investigate the matter.
According to the Ombudsman, St. Maarten residents with Dutch passports are allowed to stay and reside in the Netherlands without restrictions. “The associated regular rights and obligations are the same for all Dutch citizens,” said Van Zutphen, who referred to his 2016 report on the issue of registration.
In his letter to Minister Ollongren, the Ombudsman stated that a citizen should be able to register at all times, regardless of their housing or living situation, to allow people to apply for social facilities in case they cannot provide for themselves and are in need of housing.
He pointed out that a group of St. Maarteners had encountered problems when they want to register at a number of municipalities, despite the Minister’s acknowledgement last week that St. Maarten residents with Dutch passports are Dutch citizens who may stay and reside in the Netherlands without restrictions.
“The question is whether they truly have access to the facilities to which they are entitled,” Van Zutphen stated.
He criticised the municipalities’ intention to have individual talks with the evacuated St. Maarteners to discuss their prospects, with the aim to support these persons to return to their island. Van Zutphen made clear in his letter to the Minister that this manner of acting has no legal basis.
“The only requirement in the law for the St. Maarteners who want to register is that they have proof of writing out of the St. Maarten civil registry, something that cannot be demanded from these citizens at this time,” he stated.
The Ombudsman posed a number of specific questions to the Minister regarding the St. Maarten group’s predicament. Among other things, he asked whether different regulations applied for St. Maarteners than for people who moved from another Dutch municipality.

Source: The Daily Herald